As debates continue raging about our education standards and how best to transform the sector, university students have started campaigning for a uniform regional education syllabus. This has been reached at a forum of students meeting as the East African Community Students Union meeting in Dar-es-Salaam.
They should know. Among other things, they are the ones who are exposed to unfair fees systems, where foreign students are charged differently from citizens, thereby frustrating even the little gains that should have been made a long time ago in this area at least, regarding regional cooperation. Even when it had been agreed in a council of ministers that the region charges uniform fees, foreign students from the region still pay exorbitant discriminatory fees.
But the most important reason to consider a harmonized education syllabus for the region, and especially for Rwanda, is the fact of competitiveness. We have a completely different system of education, with a 6-3-3 class level system; yet the other three older member states largely run a 7-4-2 system that was copied from the British, owing to their colonial history, with only slight modifications. With one uniform syllabus we run the advantage of attending any institution in the region and compete favourably. As things are now, we are at a big disadvantage.
This also has another advantage – there are many teachers in the region who could be employed at the going education service rates to run the schools, without any fear that they are products of a different education system and therefore inappropriate.
Of course this programme is fraught with multiple challenges; for example the newly admitted states to the EAC – Rwanda and Burundi – would have to really pull up their socks to adjust to a new system, which also has English as the main language of instruction, whereas they are just struggling to adopt to a new language policy.
It is high time the region’s leaders became serious about real East African states cooperation and not wait for the political federation (that is still elusive) to implement some of these programmes, especially those, like this one of fees, that have passed debate level and the necessary instruments for their implementation have been promulgated.