UNDOUBTEDLY, education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Education plays a large role in making life more meaningful. It is also a gateway to know the fundamental rights, and how to defend them.
As is commonly known, having a quality education plays a large part in finding a job and earning a living. It is true to say that quality education gives individuals a more competitive advantage over available opportunities. This perfectly matches with words of Audrey Hepburn, the iconic American actor, that “a quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labour exploitation and disease, and give them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.”
A quality education doesn’t only impart fundamentals of a job, but also gives you the potential skills to be more competitive than someone with a half-backed education.
It is against this perfective that last year, the government embarked on enhancing quality education as the only way to turn things around. This crucially important issue was raised during the 15th National Leadership Retreat (early 2018), where the leaders resolved, among other things, to “improve the quality of education at all levels and review the teaching methods of languages in primary and secondary schools with emphasis on English proficiency”.
Similarly, in the recently concluded 16th National Dialogue held through December 13 - 14, it reiterated in Point 6 that “Gufata ingamba zo gukuraho imbogamizi zikibangamira ireme ry’uburezi mu byiciro byose, uhereye ku mashuri abanza, ayisumbuye ndetse n’amakuru”. Loosely translated as setting out strategies to remove all hindrances to quality education in all levels of education, starting from primary and secondary schools through higher learning institutions.
From a broad perspective, it is quite important, we Rwandans, to acknowledge the need to promote and improve our education system to equip the learners with desirable skills and knowledge, which respond to the current labour market demands. In my view, however, there’re two important things worth underlining for the policy-makers to think over. First and the most important of all, promoting fluency in English, which is the main language of instruction in schools and higher learning institutions. Apart from Kinyarwanda, which is of course not an issue, French and Swahili equally have to be promoted as part of Rwanda’s official languages. So inability to communicate effectively hinders the students and/or graduates to demonstrate their potential. In fact, effective communication or fluency helps you sell your skills, ideas, communicate your thoughts to others, convince, reach out, and even impress your listeners or audience.
Command of language is a vitally important tool in job-related matters. In fact, a number of studies have consistently demonstrated that those who have an advanced knowledge of a particular language (e.g. English or French) that is dominantly used in a formal sector as opposed to informal sector are much more likely to advance their careers. Besides, these studies have also demonstrated that a strong command of the English language that is widely-spoken lead to handsomely paying jobs and mobility of labour compared to those who are not fluent or speak with difficulty. Effective communication clearly enables graduates to express their knowledge and skills with confidence.
Education system must create more strategies and practices—such as debates and other oral competitions—that make students enhance their communication skills. Effective communication skills are one of the major employability demands. There’s a demonstrable need to increase our students’ English or French skills to be able compete for better employment opportunities within the region or beyond. It’s quite common in most employment opportunities that people will judge you by the way you speak. To succeed, you must focus on your appearance as well as your manner of speaking. If you speak in a manner that is eloquent, this will create a powerful impression.
Second is to promote competitive mindset in schools. It may, however, seem contentious and unwelcome topic in education. This may raise a couple of questions: Should students compete? What about collaboration? Doesn’t competition create winners and losers? In this regard, competition in education shouldn’t be seen in a negative angle but in a positive way.
Naturally, competition is healthy in schools, as it keeps in mind the students to develop intrinsically self-assessment and skills. Besides, it motives students to pay undivided attention and put in maximum effort to be the best. The fact that they strive to achieve the best out of life, makes them work harder at understanding their specific skills, and how to work well with one another. As such, educators must direct their support to help students, individually and collectively, work hard to achieve the benefits from competitions.
Equally, it enables students to develop and maintain intrinsic motivation for the challenges they face. In so doing, they develop a positive attitude to address a myriad of problems that their communities face. For example, a quality education can, and will, go a long way in providing a solution to poverty.
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.