State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Isaac Munyakazi has vouched for the policy on automatic promotion of students who fail classes revised to make sure that only those who merit promotion get it.
In an exclusive interview with The New Times, last week, the minister said he concurs with people’s concerns that automatic promotion promotes laziness among students.
“Saying that it affects the quality of education is also true. My take on this, as a professional and educator, I recommend that a student who deserves to be promoted should be the one to be promoted,” Munyakazi said.
“Sure, teachers have a big role to play to make sure a big number of students are promoted to the next classes, but they must play that role accurately,” he added.
Munyakazi said when a teacher determines that a learner has not grasped enough knowledge to be promoted, repeating a class should be recommended to enable the learner progress in tandem with knowledge acquired in the course of studies.
The minister suggested that the manner in which the policy is being implemented is due to misinterpretation, saying there is need for a revision of the policy.
“Education that can contribute to country’s development is that which seeks to impart knowledge and skills in learners regardless of how long it takes. Learners need to graduate with competencies that will help them contribute to socio-economic development of the country,” said Munyakazi.
For some time now, parents and teachers have been complaining about the policy and urged the Ministry of Education to reconsider it, arguing that it threatens competitiveness of students and affects education quality.
According to the ministry, the automatic promotion policy was introduced in 2001 following new guidelines on class promotion, repetition and dropout in order to curb dropout rate in schools and promote universal education.
‘No phones in schools’
Meanwhile, Minister Munyakazi said no primary or secondary school students should be allowed to take or use their cell phones at schools, adding that students who will be caught using mobile phones would be sanctioned according to internal regulations of schools and could include suspension.
Munyakazi said while mobile phones may carry some benefits, the cost of controlling their usage in a crowded school environment and avoiding their abuse is high.
“Cell phones are a source of distraction for young people. Youth can wander on social media, engage in negative intersocial groups, play games and many more forms of distractions. At their age, their ability to control such things is very low,” the minister said.
“Although some people may say that in this era of information technology students can use cell phones for research, we can’t expect them to be responsible enough and use them only when in need,” he said.
The minister also said the fact that not all students can afford smartphones that have advanced functionalities necessary for learning means schools must consider the disparities it would create.
The ministry has also introduced the ‘smart classrooms’ in all schools countrywide that are equipped with laptops and internet connectivity.
Munyakazi said, with this, phones are not necessary.
“While at school, students can use the smart classrooms and later in the evening for those in day schools can use their cell phones at home as they want and for those in boarding they can also use them during holidays,” the minister said.
He added that for students who may want to communicate with parents still have the opportunity to use the available public phones in schools under supervision of their educators.
The new directive is a departure from the approach adopted by Minister Munyakazi’s immediate predecessor Olivier Rwamukwaya, who became the first senior official to publicly encourage schools to allow students to use of cell phones under supervision.
The decision sparked controversy and skepticism, with some parents and a section of educators questioning the rationale behind the move.
Many feared the abuse, saying limited and controlled usage was likely to be impossible.
Instead, the opponents of Rwamukwaya’s directive called on the Ministry of Education to increase the number of computers and internet connectivity in schools to meet the demands of research.
Rwamukwaya is now the state minister for Technical and Vocational Education and Training.