Both the Vision 2020 and EDPRS economic development plans are meant to transform our economy to a knowledge-based one from our traditional model. To render the plan possible, strategies were taken by all concerned parties from private and public sectors, as well as development partners.
The strategies included universal primary education, loan schemes to university students, increased number of private higher learning institutions and vocational training institutes.
My concern here is about sharing ideas about the actors to the realization of the vision to transform Rwanda into a knowledge based economy. Unlike other institutions if there is any, education can’t reach its goal (academic quality) unless all stakeholders do their part.
I will pick the major stakeholders as the government, academic institutions, private sector and the employers.
Institutions of higher learning can only give both practical skills and theories but only employers can give students practical experiences; this is possible without necessarily employing students but availing internships and volunteer work.
Internships and volunteer work remain some of the biggest challenges to fresh graduates and students yet they are very crucial in shaping the students’ career performance.
Most of the students are disappointed when requesting for internships both in public and private sectors.
No one is willing to take and guide them. The 2 months guided internships they get as part of their course work is not enough. They need extended internships during their holidays and after graduating incase they haven’t got jobs.
The government on the other hand through the Ministry of Education, in addition to the plan of transforming the economy to knowledge based one, has to monitor the day to day success of the conditions.
For example, a class with the capacity of 45 sits 80 students instead.
This will not only be a challenge to students in class as result of congestion but also to a lecturer. Imagine this during a practical lecture.
What should be clear is that matching quality and quantity in education is very demanding. It needs a lot of collective financial input by both the government and the private sector.
Quality training is far beyond “chalk and talk” our traditional relationship between a student and a lecturer.
The plan incorporates teaching facilities like labs, computers, ratio of students per lecturer, the quality of academic staff, students’ background right from elementary education, students’ living conditions and staff, industrial training/ internships to mention but a few.
If you want to have quality products from higher learning institutions, the above factors should be considered. Most of our higher leaning institutions are stricken by most if not all the above mentioned factors.
I will give an example on how balancing the quantity and the quality is tricky. In my time, a journalism class used to take not more than 20 students but now they take 100 every year, meaning 5 times more than my time.
Most of such technical professions, the system of instruction during practical courses is usually a lecturer-a students or a small group of not more than 3 at a time.
Nowadays the system can’t work in such courses, imagine a practical course on which more than 6 students share a computer, only the student handling the mouse will learn while others are just observers.
This challenge came in addition to the new adopted system of teaching (Bologna system) adopted by all universities in the world.
The system is a “student centered learning” which reduces contact hours between a student and a lecturer, gives much time to self teaching, hands on rather than traditional “chalk and talk”.
Such a system requires the availability of teaching materials like computer labs for research and other labs for science students.
The author is the National University of Rwanda Public Relations Officer