The government has unveiled the highly anticipated schools curriculum that has been designed to empower learners with hands-on skills to enable them fit in the global skills trend.
The new curriculum, covering pre-school, primary to secondary levels, was unveiled in Kigali, yesterday, with Education minister Silas Lwakabamba and other officials describing it as “competence-based with potential to provide learners with the skills they need to succeed in the increasingly competitive world of work and help move the country forward.
Unlike the current curriculum – to be phased out beginning with the next schools calendar in January – that focuses more on theoretical than practical skills and described as knowledge-based, the new curriculum engages students in doing more practical and discussions in order to empower learners with both skills and analytical tools.
With the new curriculum, Prof Lwakabamba said, teachers will continue to play their role but learners will be taught to be highly involved in constructing their own knowledge.
“The focus should be on developing the learner capable of making creative use of knowledge and skills and being capable of linking theoretical and practical skills and how they are applied for problem solving in the real life situations,” the minister said.
While some teachers may expect the new curriculum to make their life difficult because they were used to the old system, the Minister of Education said there is no need to be scared.
“There is a misconception and fear that the curriculum is completely overhauled and that the implementers will find it extremely difficult to interpret it. Let them be assured that competence-based curricula are not necessarily in conflict with content or knowledge-based curricula, neither is learner-centred approach in conflict with the role of a teacher in imparting knowledge,” he said.
The new curriculum was designed with the country’s economic development aspirations such as the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRSII) and Vision 2020, as well as regional integration, in mind.
The curriculum was also informed by the integration process, where Rwanda wants to harmonise education programmes within both the East African Community and the Commonwealth group of nations to which the country is a member.
It has also drawn some lessons from the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan).
The Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Olivier Rwamukwaya, has said the new system of education will help students to become citizens who are able to respond to labour market demands.
“On top of instilling knowledge in students, they are also empowered with practical skills they will need to use in the world of work. The new curriculum will not only help students get knowledge, but also acquire skills that are needed to create jobs,” Rwamukwaya told The New Times on Wednesday.
Under EDPRSII, the government seeks to create more than 200,000 off farm jobs every year through 2017, a dream whose realisation requires competence-based system of education according to experts.
Even if Prof. Lwakabamba asked teachers not to be wary of the new curriculum, he hinted that a shift in the way of teaching will be needed.
“The shift from knowledge-based and content-based curriculum to competence-based curriculum and the choice of key competencies and life skills already integrated within our subjects calls for comprehensive change and new thinking in instructional approach offered by the teachers as guides of the learning process,” he said.
The minister added that “competence-based curriculum takes learning to higher levels by providing challenging and engaging learning experiences which require deep thinking rather than just memorisation of facts spoon-fed by the teachers”.
Lwakabamba also said that teachers will be supported to adopt approaches that encourage and enable learners to engage in active learning.
Teachers have a say
Some head teachers and book publishers, many of whom were invited at yesterday’s launch have already welcomed the new system of education.
According to Martin Masabo, the head teacher of Lycée de Kigali, who spoke at the launch of the curriculum on behalf of head teachers, educationists should embrace the new curriculum because it will help produce better graduates.
“The bottom line is that this curriculum will help our students to be critical thinkers and job creators. With this new competence-based curriculum, the good thing is that students will be taught skills; things like writing effectively, being able to solve problems and making research among other things,” he said.
Stephen Mugisha, the managing partner at Excel Education Partners and Chairperson of the Rwanda Publishers Association, welcomed the idea that the new curriculum is learner-centred.
“In the previous curriculum I think the teacher took the centre stage in the teaching and learning process. If the new curriculum has put the learner at the centre of learning; then it means it’s better than the previous one. Any good teaching should encourage the student to discover, should be interactive,” he said in an interview.
At the launch of the curriculum, officials at the Ministry of Education urged all education stakeholders to support its swift implementation.
Noala Skinner, the UNICEF country representative, said her organisation and many other development partners are ready to support the implementation of the new curriculum.
“Development partners look forward to working with the Ministry of Education and the Rwanda Education Board over the coming years to support the progressive implementation of the new curriculum. We pledge our ongoing commitment to supporting this ambitious and exciting reform,” she said.
The implementation of the new curriculum will be progressive, spanning three years from 2016 to 2017, with adjustments in national examinations due in 2018, officials said.
In January next year, the new curriculum will be in place in schools, beginning with kindergarten, Primary One and Four, as well as Senior One and Four.