Education ministry needs more head scratching for clearer way forward

Since the results for the 2007 national examinations were released nearly two weeks ago has received scathing comments. Yes; only 26.74 per cent managed to pass it.

Since the results for the 2007 national examinations were released nearly two weeks ago has received scathing comments. Yes; only 26.74 per cent managed to pass it.

Minister Mujawamariya had been put to task to explain the cause of the perpetual decline in last year’s students’ performance by a journalist during a press conference on February 4 at Village Urugwiro. She trod where the angels dread when she attempted to evade the question, at that. 

In Rwanda, statistics show nearly all children of school going age have access to education. And, Rwanda is credited for fast tracking Education For All (EFA) - 2015, a commitment by the world community (through UNESCO) that is aligned with the Development Millennium Goals (MDGs).

What, however, is defeating is the fact that the results have caused recurrent lamentation. The trend shows that quantity and quality have for the last three years tended to move in the opposite directions.

Educationists are agreed that the results are a reflection of basically the progress of the education system – exclusively the syllabuses and curriculum. Education administration being the wheel that sets the whole education system rolling, its inadequacy or otherwise affects the entire system.

The minister’s role as an overseer of the system ostensibly goes beyond lip service. Besides administrative roles, they are supposed to oversee the coordination of all educational activities in the ministry, right from the making of the syllabuses to the evaluation stage.

It is not the students who are evaluated, but the syllabuses. Some questions are very crucial to consider during the making of the syllabus, for example, is the content compatible to national aspirations in terms of relevance?

The objectives of the curriculum should not be a mystery – should be laid out clearly in the teaching syllabus and should be followed to the letter during the process of teaching and indicated every time a teacher is making a scheme of work.

The inspectorate in the education ministry is charged with overseeing such activities to ensure that proper implementation of the curriculum is done and make reports.

Never should there be a clash between the curriculum and the examination syllabus.
Hence, it is self defeating for the education minister to tell the scribes and the entire nation that the examination was too hard for a big majority of the pupils to pass. Then, it goes without saying; the examination lacked all the qualities of a good examination.
A good examination should be fair. Thus, it must be set in coherence to a prescribed set of standards – clarity, precision and academic level of the target group.

When the minister says the examination was “extremely hard”, does she imply that the language used in setting examination was above the students’ level and that the questions set outside the examination syllabus or the students were too weak to cope with the curriculum standards?

The other possibility is a presence of a clash between the examination syllabus and the content of the curriculum. 

The minister, also charged with presiding over releasing results was unashamed to confess that she did not have the statistics at her finger tips, to adequately convince the nation on the general situation regarding the evaluation of the syllabus and analysis of pupils’ performance.

One wonders whether she was just forced to release the results before a detailed analysis was done.

I agree with her that the methodology of setting exams can change depending on the growing demand to match with the ever changing educational requirements. But, I beg to disagree with her in the manner the execution of the changes was done. Education is a process, thus, changes cannot be implemented overnight or haphazardly.

Teachers, students and other partners in the system have to be sensitised and involved as well to enable them prepare for the changes. This calls for adaptation of appropriate teaching methods leave alone pre-examinations.

I would not wish to sound a critic of the education system per se, but I find deteriorating standards unrealistic. The drastic decline of the pass mark from 43.3 per cent to 38 per cent (below average), which continues to attract growing concern from stakeholders, portends a dim future for the sector.

Her inadequate explanation points to perpetual administrative problems that seem to be swept under the carpet. A suggestion of an independent commission to probe into the crisis might be popular. Otherwise, the relevancy of the education system, vis-à-vis national development could be under question.

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