Recently, the McKinsey consultancy group studied what they considered to be top performing education systems in the world – Canada, Finland, Japan, Singapore and South Korea – to understand what they had in common.
Their study concluded that the common formula for a high-performing education system could be summed up in three steps - begin by hiring the best teachers, develop these teachers into effective instructors and school leaders, and have these teachers deliver quality instruction to every child in the system.
The key strength of the Rwanda education system is our people. That is why our key strategy in education has to focus almost exclusively in selecting the right people to be teachers and school leaders, and developing them throughout their careers along paths that match their interests. Quality teachers and quality school leaders are quite simply what we need in order to develop a leading education system, one that will take us forward.
That mentioned, let me emphasise that there is no trade-off between ensuring that we pay teachers competitively and building the commitment and passion for teaching that will really add quality in our schools. Competitive salaries are a necessary condition, even if they are not sufficient to ensuring a top class teaching service.
That’s the way it is in any contemporary knowledge-based profession. We have to ensure that pay remains competitive at every level, but we also have to work to keep the profession uniquely attractive in its development opportunities and give teachers more time and space to do what they believe works best, and to develop themselves.
It seems simple enough, to hire the right people to be teachers. But a quick international scan shows many countries, including many of the developed countries, who are unable to attract good people into education and retain them.
Nevertheless, few countries are thriving in this area, for example, Singapore has been able to recruit teachers from the top 30% of each cohort. About 75% of new teachers recruited today are graduates and close to one in two of new graduate teachers have an Honours degree. Over half of Singapore’s teaching recruits for primary schools are graduates.
I believe we are better placed because of our smaller size, and the fact that we operate a single national system; we should be able to ensure quality through a rigorous process of identifying potential leaders, nurturing them and deploying them across our schools, rotating them periodically and giving them sabbaticals to recharge and get new ideas.
It is a system that will nurture effective school leaders in every school, who are able to take ownership of their schools and use the autonomy they have well, learn over time and take good lessons from one school to another. It is how we will raise overall standards in our schools, and ensure that high quality is not just about a few schools.
I am confident that we have the basics in place and the right people in position to take our schools and education system forward for many years to come. Together, we will continue on this journey of excellence and create an even brighter future for Rwanda.
Our teachers are simply the most important asset we have. Their commitment to excellence, their caring eye and the passion they put into nurturing their students are what will allow us to provide the best possible education to every young Rwandan.
The re-aligning of funding from tertiary to primary and secondary level education affirms MINEDUC’s commitment to build a first class education system.
Liban Mugabo is a graduate student in Singapore