There is a clear recognition across the country of the importance of providing quality basic education in quantity in order to develop Rwanda’s human resources, to generate employment, through skilled labour and thus reduce poverty.
Access to education has improved at all levels of the entire education system. With reference to the Millennium Development Goal (MGDs), net enrolment rate in primary schools has now reached 92 per cent and the percentage of girl students is over 50 per cent.
Important pro-poor measures have been introduced which will enable a greater number of children to attend primary schools.
However, the costs of schooling are still too high for poor families, and the percentage of children who actually complete a full cycle of primary school is below the Sub-Saharan average.
Challenges therefore remain in reducing the drop out and repetition rate of children across the country, increasing the completion rate at primary school and improving girls’ examination performance.
There is evidence of ‘access shock’ and declining quality. Investments in teachers, textbooks, and classrooms have not matched demand.
Higher education, technical and vocational education training are only partially meeting the needs of the local labour market.
The education sector objectives have evolved since 2002 within the framework of the Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP), first presented in 2003.
The ESSP is based on the long-term strategy and financial framework (LTSFF) for meeting the education Millennium Goals and Rwanda’s Vision 2020.
The ESSP and LTSFF enable the government to make informed decisions on the level of investment needed across the sector to meet national targets.
The ESSP has been revised to include new priorities, including a nine-year basic education and emphasis on science and technology with a special focus on Information Communication and Technology (ICT).
The plan anticipates a steady rise in Government funding, with a similar increase in donor funding. Mobilising the required resources to meet the needs outlined in the ESSP will be a major challenge.
The sector has developed a sector budget support modality, and a pooled fund for capacity building to enable donors to fully align external financing where possible and make the ESSP operational.
There will also be a role for communities, NGOs, faith based organisations, and private partnerships. Therefore, there will be efforts to ensure the financing gap is bridged.
If the anticipated financing gap would not have been met, the sector will need to scale down its level of ambition. There has been a steady improvement in linkages between the ESSP, the budget, and budget outturns from 2003 to 2005.
Budget sub-programme performance has also improved, although some cross cutting issues (Girls’ education and HIV/Aids) remain poorly executed and some areas such as ICT have been overspending compared to allocated budget.
A major challenge is to strengthen the relationship between inputs, outputs, and educational results. Improved monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening capacity at all levels will help to secure better performance in terms of implementation.
The introduction of fee-free primary education in 2003, plus the direct transfer of capitation grant funds to primary schools, has enabled greater access to primary school, and relieved part (but not all) of the financial burden felt by poor families.
However, it is rather too early to assess evidence of the poverty reduction impact of these measures (improved health, wealth, agricultural yield) anticipated in the PRSP 1; more effort needs to be introduced to help monitor such impacts.
Education data – which also relies on population statistics – needs to become more robust in order to do this, with disaggregated data for gender, poverty quintile, and region.
The newly planned education management information system (EMIS) will give opportunity to do so from next year.
Tracking of the capitation grant could as well be enhanced by ascertaining the usage of capitation grants at school level, and by monitoring linkages to education quality improvement and the impact on the poor family’s access to education.
Costs also remain a key barrier to access at secondary level. Greater emphasis needs to urgent concern to be removed from the ‘forgotten majority’ of children and youth who fallout of the education system and have few opportunities to develop even basic literacy and numeric skills.
The Citizen Report Card survey suggests that reasons for drop out may need to be studied more systematically. The education sector is characterised by strong partnerships including development partners and representatives from civil society, NGOs, and faith based organisations. The sector has held four joint reviews since 2003, held each year in April.
The first key emerging priority is that of nine-year basic education. This envisages expansion in primary and schooling capacity as well as the quality of education.
Large increases in terms of classrooms, teachers, curriculum and textbooks will be required. In terms of teachers, attraction, motivation and retention was identified as an issue within the backward looking review.
Tackling these problems will be a key priority of the newly established teacher service commission. The nine-year basic education programme should address the special needs of the disabled under the line item of special education.
It is necessary therefore to complete the policy for special needs education, which covers all sub-sectors of education.
Science and technology in education is the second emerging priority area. The roles in poverty reduction and economic growth through technical, professional, and vocational training are to be analysed so as to target policies clearly towards these goals.
Planning the sequencing of the science and technology programme in order to ensure strong interest and effective use of resources is recognised as an important step.
Some of the planned policy actions for science and technology include developing and implementing training for school directors and teachers of science and mathematics (including gender, pedagogy, and subject area studies).
The development and implementation of a strategy to encourage female students to study science and mathematics is proposed, together with encouraging continuation into the secondary and tertiary teaching field. There are plans to expand ICT provision and capacity in schools.