Teachers in primary and secondary schools have urged the Ministry of Education to reconsider the policy on automatic promotion of students from one class to the other, saying this discourages competitiveness and affects quality of education.
Under the current system, students in government schools are not allowed to repeat classes regardless of their performance, which according to teachers, breeds mediocricy.
This was said on Wednesday as educators celebrated the World Teachers’ Day.
The day was celebrated, at the national level, at Kigali Independent University in Gasabo District and at the sector level countrywide under the theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status.”
During the national celebration, which was attended by officials from the ministry, some teachers said the decision should be rescinded if government is to achieve its mission of churning out skilled human capital.
In order to curb the dropout rate in schools and promote universal education, the education ministry in 2001, issued new guidelines on class promotion, repetition and dropout.
The guidelines aimed at making sure that no student repeated a class or, at worst, not more than 10 per cent of the class are made to repeat.
But teachers now say it is difficult to ensure quality education when students have it at the back of their mind that they would automatically pass regardless of their performance.
“There is no competition in schools and this is attributed to the automatic promotion policy and it is a big problem if the child knows that they will be promoted anyway after the academic year,” one teacher told the Minister for Education amid applause from other teachers.
In a separate interview, Jean Bosco Ndikubwayo, another teacher, said no matter what teachers do, it remains hard for them to help students perform well due to the mindset they have that they would be promoted even when they have performed poorly.
“We are not allowed to make any students repeat a class unless there is a remarkable weakness and this even requires negotiations with management,” said Ndikubwayo.
Parents have expressed mixed reactions on whether a student should be promoted automatically without considering their performance in class saying that teachers should do their best to ensure students acquire quality education and be promoted based on merit.
“It is expensive to educate a child up to the university but it is a big loss when one’s child is promoted automatically and completes university with little knowledge, I think it is the responsibility of teachers to ensure our children access quality education for the better of our country’s development,” said Donatha Yankurije, a mother of three in Gisozi Sector, Gasabo district.
The Minister for Education, Dr Papias Malimba Musafiri, admitted there could be laxity on the part of some students but added that repeating classes should not be solely singled out as the main issue.
“I can admit that the competition among school children is that not tight as it was during my time or your time, some reasons are based on the ICT which distract some students, but we cannot encourage them to avoid ICT, it is time we changed the methodology” he said
“We cannot just build competition among our students; that is a colonial way of doing things, where the teacher had a specific number of students to be promoted, competition among our children can not be encouraged by making them repeat classes,” said the minister
“We need to change our approach and make students the centre of teaching and learning, students are curious and need to be supported to discover and innovate, it is only the system that needs changing, we need to carry out research on this and do self evaluation to identify the best methodology to use to capture the attention of students,” he added
The minister also urged the teachers to ensure that they promote quality of education and use government programmes in place, such as Umwalimu Sacco, Girinka Mwalimu, among others, to develop themselves and country as a whole.