Teachers are the most important education resource. Quality education cannot happen without them. As key agents in helping realise Rwanda’s 2020 Vision of a knowledge-based economy, teachers at all levels play a crucial role in the development of the skilled human capital necessary to transform Rwanda from being largely agrarian to a middle income country and regional leader in ICT.
The New Time’s Godfrey Ntagungira talked to the Emmanuel Muvunyi; executive secretary teacher service commission (TSC)
Rwanda, like many other developing countries in Africa, faces the challenge and pressing duty of eradicating poverty, enhancing equity and expanding access to education without compromising quality, and placing the country on a path of sustainable growth and development.
In teacher service commission we take it that teachers are the most important education resource. Quality education cannot happen without them.
As key agents in helping realise Rwanda’s 2020 Vision of a knowledge-based economy, teachers at all levels play a crucial role in the development of the skilled human capital necessary to transform our country from being largely agrarian to a middle income country and regional leader in ICT.
Basing on education sector strategic plan (2010-2015) we aim at improving education, particularly skills development, to meet the labour market demand, by increasing the coverage and quality of nine-year basic education (9YBE), and strengthening post-basic education (PBE).
A teacher development and management (TDM) policy was approved in 2007 to strengthen institutional and structural capacities for improving teacher quality in primary and secondary schools.
The government has therefore, acknowledged in its education policy pronouncements that the teacher is the main instrument for bringing about desired improvements in learning, and that adequate teacher management structures, policies and strategies are key factors that determine teacher performance. The teaching sector has also been undergoing reforms just like all other sectors.
The government aims at providing a management structure in the teaching sector that will enhance efficiency and control among teachers and education officers at the point where the actual learning occurs. The quality and utility value of education depends on the quality and competence of the teaching staff.
The status of teachers has therefore become the focus of government development agenda as espoused in the Education Sector Strategic Plan which stated, inter alia, that “the strategy was to provide teachers trained in participatory, learner-centred at the various levels”.
The education sector faces the additional constraints in the production, employment and retention of sufficient number of teachers to meet the above targets.
The Ministry of Education has moved away from the pre 1998 days when the supply of teachers was not coherently done. There were no Teacher Training Colleges, no focus on teacher training and teachers were generally obtained with diverse qualifications from sundry sources.
An increasing number of prospective primary school teachers are today receiving pre-service training through the primary teacher training colleges.
The education sector is premised to contribute towards economic development and poverty reduction by making education more relevant for social and economic progress. This will be achieved by the establishment of a curriculum that promotes development skills including life skills and social cohesion.
Prepare a teacher appraisal scheme that would streamline the licence renewal system as well as identifying potentialities for financing the teaching force.
All qualified teachers will be issued with teaching licenses from the Teachers Service Commission to indicate accredited membership of the teaching profession. A teacher appraisal scheme will be introduced for teacher development purposes and incorporated into a license renewal scheme.
Establishment and structure of the Teacher Service Commission
The Teacher Service Commission (TSC) was set up as a Task Force in March 2006. It is hoped that the soon-to-be operational Rwandan Education Board (REB), together with an appropriate staffing complement for TSC, will provide a permanent structure for and ensure its capacity to fulfill the mandate of the TSC and implement the planned activities.
The mission of the Teachers’ Service Commission is to improve on the delivery of quality education through development, management and provision of sufficient, qualified, motivated and competent teachers.
DEVELOPING CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
Pre-service training provides trainees with an initial education in relevant subject areas and teaching methodology; it serves as foundation for professional practice and development. It currently takes place in 3 sets of institutions:
Teacher Training Colleges, training to A2 (Certificate Level), for primary school teaching; Colleges of Education, training to A1 (Diploma Level), for lower secondary teaching; and Kigali Institute of Education which trains to A0 (Degree Level) for upper secondary teaching.
TSC liaises with all of these institutions to ensure quality training of the nation’s school teachers.
In-service training offers teachers opportunities for continuous professional development. The main In-service training programmes (INSET) at present offer English language training for all primary and secondary school teachers, Maths and Science training for secondary school teachers of these subjects, and School Management Training for Head Teachers.
TSC works closely with district education officers to facilitate decentralised ownership and delivery of INSET. In future reforms, it is envisaged that a fully-fledged INSET structure will be established, this will offer continuous professional development for all teachers and delineate career pathways.
In order to achieve its short term and long term goals, TSC works closely with, and values its relationship with a number of development partners in the teacher education sub-sector within the education sector. These include the following:
British Council provides technical assistance and resources to REAP (Rwanda English in Action Programme); coordinating an international school exchange programme (Connecting Classrooms) for Rwandan schools; organising international mentoring opportunities for senior personnel.
Also Commonwealth of Learning extends child friendly school approach to teacher training; creating a bank of open and distance learning materials for formal education
We also work with JICA in managing a regional INSET programme aimed at Strengthening Maths and Science in Secondary Education (SMASSE)
Peace Corps intervene with the supplying of teaching volunteers, including English teachers, to rural secondary schools
With UNICEF as our partners leading child friendly school initiative; supporting primary teacher training and VVOB: Providing management training to head teachers, directors of studies, bursars and secretaries.
VSO: Provides education volunteers, including methodology trainers and education management advisers to districts and dioceses; supporting REAP; strengthening teacher resource centres
Other partners include Wellspring Foundation, which delivers INSET through a values-based approach to teaching; and International Education Exchange which also provides training as well as supporting public education in various ways.
A number of high level policy documents frame and inform the work of the TSC. In addition the TSC in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Teacher Training Institutions and other government agencies develops a number of policy documents concerned with promoting effective teacher development, management and professionalisation and implementing a range of reforms and initiatives.
Some of these key policy documents are:
The ESSP is a key document for TSC work. It frames our activities, guiding policy and planning in teacher education and management.
A Teacher Development and Management Policy (TDMP) have been designed to strengthen institutional and structural capacities for improving teacher quality in primary and secondary schools. This objective will only be realised with the recognition of teaching as a distinct and valued profession within the public service, governed by its own code of professional ethics and having clear pathways for professional development.
Four further plans, outlined below, have been derived from TDM policy:
A TDMP strategic plan which details the strategies critical to realisation of TDMP and to strengthening educational management in primary and secondary schools.
A Continuous Professional Development (CPD) plan to be rolled out to all teachers, thereby promoting a sense of individual responsibility for professional development.
A comprehensive resource plan (CRP) – including goods, equipment and infrastructure – to support the TDM programme.
A monitoring and evaluation framework for teacher development and management.
In future, several other policies will be derived from the TDM and TEMP reforms and initiatives.
Statutes and Regulations
A set of rules and regulations are being designed and will be put in place to standardise and harmonise key aspects of the teaching profession: Among them include the National Teacher Registration System (NTRS) – this is an electronic database of all school teachers and will form the cornerstone of teacher management at all levels of teacher administration including central and decentralised level and also the National Teacher Licensing System (NTLS) – this will be a tool to allow teachers move up on the various ranks of professional ladder and will be linked to the quality assurance mechanism for the teaching profession.
Also terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) – this will provide the basis of employment of teachers and it will be upon this that the teacher contracts will be drawn up and signed.
National Teacher Code of Conduct (NTCC) – this will articulate a clear set of expectations that will govern the professional behavior of all teachers both inside and outside the classroom, National Teacher Professional Standards (NTPS) – this is about statements of classroom competencies that all teachers are expected to display and the Teacher Appraisal and Evaluation System (TAES) – this will provide a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating teacher performance in general and will thus facilitate on-going assessment of teachers.
English as a medium of instruction in schools
The government places a high premium on the development of human capital with the necessary knowledge and skills as a vehicle for socioeconomic development. Within this context, government follows a trilingual education policy so as to have regional and international advantages associated with trade, foreign relations, employment and education, and in line with the constitution which stipulates that Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages.
Ensuring spoken fluency in these languages, along with reading and writing competences in their associated literacies, is considered important to facilitating trade, national development, effective communication and the self-actualisation of Rwandan citizens.
For learning and education to be effective in a European language, international research and best practice consistently demonstrate that reading and writing skills must initially be developed in the first language (L1) – Kinyarwanda - so they can be successfully transferred to the second language (L2) and thereby underpin academic achievement in the L2 as the medium of instruction (MoI).
Increasing role of English
With Rwanda’s membership of the East African Community, accession to the Commonwealth of Nations and having developed new international partnerships, the use of English has become more prominent and the need for literacy in English greater.
Additionally, the government has made Science, Technology and ICT priority areas in education, and views English as the gateway to the global knowledge economy.
The sector-wide shift to English-medium instruction (EMI) is thus a bold and ambitious plan to help meet Rwanda’s goals of harmonising education curricula with other East African Community member states and promoting Science, Technology and ICT in education so as to further stimulate economic development and support poverty reduction. It also affords access to a wide range of competitively-priced teaching and learning materials in English.
Languages in education
The reconfiguration of roles and relations amongst the three languages currently used in education – Kinyarwanda, French and English – can be viewed as part of a broader set of issues around language in education, which impacts on the various education sub sectors – primary, secondary, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), higher education and adult/continuing education; and on sector priority areas of Science, Technology and ICT.
As such, and consistent with ways of addressing other cross-Teacher Training Instituting issues such as Girls Education and Special Needs Education (SEN), the shift to English medium education shows the complementarily and interrelatedness of the three languages in Rwandan education: Kinyarwanda as the bedrock of initial literacy and learning; English as the new medium of instruction (MoI); and French as a language of wider communication (LWC).
The Rwanda English in Action Programme
As the main, planned intervention to facilitate the transition to English medium in basic education, the Rwanda English in Action Programme (REAP) sets out to address the English language learning needs of more than 52,000 school teachers. Given the high costs of providing residential training to such large numbers, the Ministry of Education’s preferred option is a sector-based approach to training, supported by self-directed study and school-based mentoring.
A standardised English Language Assessment Tool (ELAT) for measuring teacher proficiency at various levels, makes up the final element of REAP and helps ensure all teachers can perform in English to the level required.
Overview of REAP
The REAP intervention is currently targeted at the country’s school teachers, particularly those with low levels of English.
Key strategies are
Motivating teachers and students to learn and use English well
Increasing their exposure to, and confidence in the language
Maximising opportunities to practice and grow skills in English
Its main programme components comprise of-
Face-to-face English language training for teachers
Self-directed study materials to consolidate the training
School-based mentoring to support the teachers
Standardised English language assessment to measure progress
Achievements to date
•Baseline study of teachers’ English proficiency
•Training of 60 national English trainers
•Training of 600 district level English trainers
•Foundation level English language training for 41,000 teachers in 2009
•Training the first cohort of 250 school-based mentors
•Mobilisation of external support for REAP (ongoing)
•School-based peer mentoring (of English language and teaching skills)
•Cluster-based workshop or short training activities
•District-based intensive, face-to-face training events
Future plans (2010 – 2015)
Provide self-directed English language learning resources to teachers as their general English improves, focus on professional language – Classroom Language, English for Maths, Science etc.
Scale up the training of mentors to level of one per school cluster
Provide English learning support to students in core curriculum subjects
Include an audio / video materials component for teachers and students
Commission English language assessment tool to international standards
Reach at least 75% of the adult population – including parents, school leavers and communities – through English learning materials delivered through media and/or mobile telephone platforms
Expected Benefits of REAP
A major skills gap in the workforce is addressed: school leavers and graduates are equipped with English language and communication skills
Increased opportunities are available for using and practicing English in a range of contexts. All school teachers and tutors at Teacher Training Colleges, Colleges of Education, KIE and TVETs will be equipped with English proficiency and modern teaching skills so as to be able to promote high levels of language, literacy and learning achievement
All educators are equipped with English proficiency and contemporary training methods so as to be able to produce teachers who are both reflective practitioners and learner-centred professionals.
Schools, Teacher Training Colleges, Colleges of Education, KIE and TVETs will be furnished with a range of language and literacy support materials, teacher training and trainer training materials for use with students, teachers and teacher educators respectively.
School clusters will be equipped with school-based mentors to help sustain proficiency gains made by professionals, and address teaching-related issues in English medium instruction.
A national network of Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs) is established to assist REAP implementation and sustain programme achievements
Teacher Resource Centres are integrated with the existing Teacher Training Colleges, which provide pre-service teacher education.
All who enter the system shall leave with an English language skill;
Regardless of whichever entry point into the education system, as long as a person has the aptitude and ability, s/he can progress along the English proficiency continuum
Other strategies for enhancing the English skills development within the larger community
A range of other media that will be used in the short and long run to reinforce the classroom face-to-face English language teaching include: Printed materials - classroom language training, training videos - teaching English, radio - teaching English and learning English, mobile phone – also for teaching and learning English and website – teaching English and learning English.
Teaching English Radio
An introduction to teacher development is a series of twelve 15-minute radio programmes aimed at teachers of English with only limited training and a basic knowledge of the language. The first set of programmes in the teaching English radio series, produced by the British Council in collaboration with the Teacher Service Commission provides advice and training on teaching English at a basic level.
These programmes are intended for teachers of English with entry level qualifications and a basic knowledge of the language, and include clips from teachers and classes in several different countries to give the programmes global appeal.
The objective of this 12-part series is to address some key issues in classroom practice by exploring and sharing well tried strategies to improve the teaching and learning of English.
The programmes are intended to motivate teachers and provide a ‘catalyst’ to improve morale and encourage more learner-centred strategies and make learning more effective.
The topics covered in this series include: finding and using resources, using group work in large classes, pair and group work in practice, developing teachers’ English, using English in the classroom, teaching new language, teaching reading and teaching listening.
The series is currently being broadcast by Radio Rwanda at Thursday at 21:00 and Radio 10 on Sunday at 21:00 and Thursday at 20:00. New radio stations will soon join.
The Pillars of REAP
The activities of REAP will centre on the following seven pillars of Language in Education (LED) development:
Development of reading and writing skills in Kinyarwanda: This pillar focuses on laying a solid foundation in L1 literacy. The focus here is on establishing sound reading and writing skills in Kinyarwanda, which literacy forms an essential platform to the development of academic literacy and learning in English as L2.
To that end, training will be given to early years’ teachers of Kinyarwanda in effective techniques for mother tongue teaching, with particular emphasis on reading and writing.
Promotion of academic literacy skills in English: This pillar centres on the need for the teaching of English as a second language to promote academic, or school-based, literacy for learning in English as L2.
To help achieve this, training will be given to English teachers in contemporary methods for teaching L2 so as to support the growth of literacy skills in English across the curriculum.
Teaching language for use / communication (Vs teaching about the language). The third pillar pays attention to the fact that the main purpose of language learning is primarily to use the language being acquired – for communication, to support learning etc.
Whilst some understanding of language structure is helpful to learners, organising language teaching around points of grammar is unlikely to be the most efficient or effective means of promoting actual use of language.
To ensure a focus on the latter, English teachers will also be trained in methods of teaching language communicatively.
Language-supportive subject teaching: The fourth pillar recognises the importance of content and language integrated learning (CLIL), and the need for subject teachers to be aware of the language demands on their learners of their subject textbooks and supplementary materials.
To address this, subject teachers will be trained in specialist forms of language-supportive subject teaching.
School-based mentoring of less experienced teachers: In order to ensure that teachers apply learning gained from training programmes to their classrooms, pillar five puts in place a school-based mentoring programme whereby more experienced teachers of English are trained as mentors so as to provide support to newly qualified and less experienced colleagues.
The mentors will help fellow teachers address practical issues arising from their teaching and in-service training.
Teacher Resource Centres in Teacher Training Colleges (Teacher Training Colleges). So as to support and sustain REAP activities at the local level; the sixth pillar establishes Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs) in Teacher Training Colleges (Teacher Training Colleges).
TRCs will have a coordinator and adviser to facilitate local training, produce self-access materials, develop co-curricular activities (English Days, Film Club etc) and coordinate the work of the centre as a whole.
They will have operating guidelines, including a range of possible activities, and equipped with the necessary goods and equipment to play a supporting role in in-service and pre-service training and follow-up of teachers.
TRCs will be networked by province so they can share ideas and materials, undertake exchange visits and action research, host short seminars etc, all of which furthers programme goals.
Enriched language and literacy resources in schools and classrooms. This pillar recognises the importance of creating an enriched language environment in schools and classrooms as an aid to literacy and learning in Kinyarwanda and English.
To that end, attention will be paid to developing appropriate school and classroom resources to promote the development of language and literacy skills at local level.