English language issue in Rwanda: An educational,

globalisation and economic development trendModern schools have generally arisen out locally and perceived the need to prepare individuals for a fruitful life within a defined community.

globalisation and economic development trend
Modern schools have generally arisen out locally and perceived the need to prepare individuals for a fruitful life within a defined community.

National and cultural needs, therefore, are often mixed with the individual’s need to operate within a social, political, and economic realm.

The demand for modern or globalised education standards arose generally out of a desire to link with a larger world and to access the seemingly superior opportunities it promised.

As the community resources become increasingly linked to the movements of global resources and as opportunities become similarly tied, educational demand also changes.

Rwandans have to look at globalisation as a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware they are receding.

From this perspective, national governments are proclaiming education as the key to success in the global economy and by doing so, the goals of schooling become directly related to the world’s economic needs.

In view of this, education and the economy are seen as having an interdependent relationship. Therefore, on one hand, competition in the global economy is dependent on the quality of education while on the other hand; the goals of education are dependent on the economy.

On this issue, the rhetoric of education-business relations has usually taken the form of arguing that if the economy exhibits certain features and therefore has certain needs, then it follows that the schools must react in a certain way.

Precisely, the conflicting views on English language policy in Rwandan School curriculum are all about this. 

Education’s response to globalisation might have some beneficial and adverse implications regardless of the degree of liberalisation.

Globalisation raises the problem of the international recognition of qualifications, and hence the quality of educational services provision, no longer just at national but at international level. 

The significance of globalisation to the questions of national and economic development can be summarised in terms of changes to three rules: firstly, the rules of eligibility-shift away from the closed economies of the post-war period towards an open economy; secondly, the rules of engagement in which markets can operate freely have dulled the monopoly held by trade unions to promote increased wages without commensurate productivity gains; thirdly, changes in the rules of wealth creation have seen that the technology of production itself is undergoing substantial and far-reaching change.

Globalisation comes along with an emphasis on developing human resource to the extent that human resource becomes a major player in the advancement of business and economic growth improving competitiveness and the quality of services and goods. This is what I may call ‘value added’.

In view of the above argument, the current decision by the Government of Rwanda to use English language as a medium of instruction in Schools is intended to meet this desired global standard.

Globalisation immediately evokes the image of privileged people: our people also need to live in any part of the world without hindrance, enjoy high-tech life of developed English speaking nations too and chance for personal advancement.

This is what I would term as ‘the need to be trans-national intellectuals seeking out and adopting a reflexive meta-cultural stance to divergent cultural experiences’.

Mastering English is a way of avoiding international isolation that can easily keep many Rwandans in perpetual poverty: As long as we can learn French as a course, it is enough; we do not have necessarily to learn in it. 

If we train our children in French and they do not master English, their employability skills are limited. The use of English today is utility oriented since it translates to money, jobs, international friends, and further studies abroad and travelling widely.

What we need is an education that can help us to match with an international standard. If we want to be where other people are, we have to prepare for it seriously for our children not to be the black sheep of the international community.

The main objective of English as a medium of instruction is to liberate Rwandans to pursue a long-term process of trans-local connectivity that is both economic and educational. 

Geographically Rwanda stands a better chance to benefit from using English language. It is an economic point of view, a communication point of view, and a location point of view.

English language is useful to our country to open up possibilities for Rwandans to try their luck within the East African Community and beyond.

Capacity to switch on to English language to fit in the society is seen as the way forward.  Global fellowship and competition today can only be realised by learning English language thereby confronting the international competition.

To concretise my point, let us have a look at former USSR. After its fall, if you do not know English, you are a social, economic and development renegate.

English is dominating not only its former colonies but also other developed countries because of business, information technology and media.

In a market system, which seems to be the direction in which Rwanda is struggling to move, it is neither possible nor fair for the government to prescribe French to business and industry. It is instead necessary for the government of Rwanda to encourage business and industry to contribute to the development of an international culture.

English Language today has a vital role in economic activity on at least three levels, namely the transfer of information/knowledge, interpersonal relations, and as an economic resource.

The modern world of business is to a large extent dependent on the management of information.

Without meaningful access to information and ability to convey information effectively, which of course, today involves the capacity to understand and use English language effectively, the economic development cannot really take place. Related to this aspect is the role of interpersonal communication, which is basic to training, productivity and competitiveness as well as management.

Continues tomorrow.

The author is the Vice-Rector Academic, Mutara Polytechnic and can be reached at ndabagav@yahoo.ie

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