Vision 2020 and EDPRS set out ambitious plans of transforming our economy into a knowledge-based economy by producing a skilled workforce that can compete favorably both in the region and on the wider international scene.
The argument is that only a workforce sufficient in numbers and relevant skills will allow Rwanda to become the competitive and modern economy it aspires to be.
But this can only be achieved if the education sector is restructured and focused towards achieving this goal.
The New Times looks back at some changes that characterized the education sector this year.
The 9-YBE Programme
February saw the first batch of students continue their studies under the under the 9-Year Basic Education Programme.
The programme was introduced by government to trim down the rate of secondary school drop outs by allowing students to attend the first part of their secondary studies at the primary schools.
In the long run, the program will also contribute significantly in cutting down the huge percentage of illiterate people in the country.
Out of the 96, 438 who passed their 2008 Primary Leaving Examination’s, 20, 973 pupils were selected to join different government aided schools, while the remaining 75, 465 were enrolled on the 9-YBE classes.
The 9-YBE classrooms
After the first batch was successfully integrated within the available classrooms, the government realized that there was a big infrastructure shortage awaiting the 9-YBE programme for the year 2010.
It was established that the programme needed 3, 172 more classrooms and over 10, 000 restrooms to contain the over 170,000 students who are expected to join the lower level of secondary in 2010.
The Ministry of education had initially estimated the construction to cost government over Rwf30 billion. But later, it emerged that the Ministry of Finance would be able to provide less than Rwf10 billion for the programme.
This called for other means to be able to see the successful completion of these classrooms before the beginning of the 2010 academic year.
That is when MINEDUC said it would provide construction materials while parents would help in funding physical construction.
MINEDUC is optimistic that by January the construction exercise will be over and classrooms will be waiting to be furnished. It has enrolled the services of the army and police to expedite this exercise.
English as language of instruction
The ground breaking change that happened in the education sector this year was the switch of the national school curriculum from French to English as the language of instruction in schools.
The decision by the Government to use English as a medium of instruction is intended to meet the desired global standard of education.
By the end of the year, over 95 percent of the students who sat for exams answered in English. It is also expected that all exams will be answered in English next year.
The development has also led to the training of over 10,000 teachers in the language. Another batch of over 40, 000 teachers are expected to be trained before the beginning of the 2010 academic year.
The OLPC Project
Rwanda couldn’t be thinking about international standards if her children do not get acquainted with ICT tools an early age.
The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project was aggressively rolled out across the country.
Government has committed to providing all 2.2 million of its primary school children with laptops by 2012.
About 10, 000 laptops have been given to primary school children around the country.
RNEC introduces practical exams
This year, it went down into books of history that science students in Rwanda for the first time were able to do practical examinations, marking yet another milestone in Rwanda’s education transformation.
The move was aimed at aligning Rwandan curriculum to that of the EAC and also giving more values, skills and encouraging a culture of research to future scientists of this country.
Government sunk in Rwf1.1 billion in buying and supplying laboratory equipment for 72 science centres around the country
Candidates’ number soars
Over 97, 000 students sat for the National exams this year. The overall number of students sitting for O and A - level exams increased by 5 percent compared to the previous year.
53,378 candidates sat for O-level compared to the 50,928 who had sat the previous year. While 43,829 students were registered to sit for A-level exams compared to the 40,844 in 2008.
Head teachers’ pay raise
This year also put smiles on the faces of educationists as government increased salaries of head teachers in primary and secondary schools, a move that is likely to bring morale within the teaching profession.
Over 5,000 graduates
The year 2009 also saw 5, 781 students graduate from universities and other institutions of higher learning, considered the biggest number ever.
Before 1994, only 2,000 people had been able to graduate from the National University of Rwanda, ever since the country attained independence.
Change of guards at the Ministry
The July cabinet reshuffle saw the two ministers in Education dropped and new ones appointed.
Dr Daphrose Gahakwa was replaced by Dr Charles Murigande, while Dr. Mathias Harebamungu replaced Theoneste Mutsindashyaka.
Tribulations in the sector
However, as usual, it was not all rosy for the sector. Teachers kept on complaining about late payments and some said they had gone several months without any payments. Others complained about the non- payment of their arrears.
The issue of improving the quality in education also remained a big challenge in 2009. Significant numbers of students still drop out especially at secondary school level, something that the ministry hopes to curtail with the 9YBE.