Rwandan education: an objective or an outcome?

What should one get from schooling?  Just how competent are our graduates?  Does education, as it is now, achieve the desired results? Can a fresh graduate competently ply their trade upon graduation?
Sam Kebongo
Sam Kebongo

What should one get from schooling?  Just how competent are our graduates?  Does education, as it is now, achieve the desired results? Can a fresh graduate competently ply their trade upon graduation?

These are questions parents, teachers and learners at different levels agonise over.

As a teacher, I posed them to my friends. They are unanimous that change is needed, big change. Consider the following;

The interview scene: The smartly dressed candidate shows up. The interview begins. “What can you do for us?” The interviewer asks after the preliminary niceties.

“I have a degree in this and that from this and that university”. The interviewer presses on and asks what, with that degree, they can do or would like to do in the organisation? “Anything”, they say. The candidate is trying to look like an all-rounder who is not picky, a team player. The interviewer sees an uncertain, non-focused individual whose job preparedness is questionable. Schooling did not prepare them well in soft skills.

The work scene: After orientation, the new employee does not seem to settle in the work environment well. It seems that s/he is not properly prepared for the work environment. This shows in planning, communication (especially written) and reporting. But then, at entry, they also had problems with their resume writing.

Work ethic is also a challenge. When training opportunities to master the language or skill are availed, It is difficult to get volunteers who are committed to the programme.

Employees act like they are counting hours to end of the day and days to the next pay day. Schooling, in this case, did not instil the right attitude and values, with regard to work ethic.

The question begs; what really is education? The great Albert Einstein says, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school”

Einstein’s statement implies that education is an outcome rather than an objective.

Einstein addresses the true meaning of education.  That is, learning is not simply the acquisition of knowledge.  As a matter of fact, the word education defines itself with its Latin root and prefix.  That is, the root word -duct- means movement [e.g. conduct], and the prefix e- means out of [e.g. exit, exeunt].  Therefore, when one becomes educated--truly educated not just in possession of a diploma they have ventured into  new avenues of thinking that have left a lasting effect upon the person.  People who have truly acquired an education will never be the same as that artless, unknowledgeable, and myopic person they were before.

Einstein recognised what many teachers recognise; the fact that schooling does not always serve students in the best sense. This is not to criticise all school systems.

Schools are subject to mandated testing, so most of education relates to things they are required to be taught. This leaves little room to address the natural interests of many students. Einstein is simply saying that for many, life teaches better and more relevant lessons than school.

So the question is how to make our education system give our students life lessons or get close. We seem to believe that learning objectives are the same things as learning outcomes.

The distinction between learning outcomes and learning objectives is not universally recognised. Some scholars make no distinction between the two terms and some usually suggest that learning outcomes are a subset or type of learning objective.

Learning objectives, for example, may outline the material the instructor intends to cover or the disciplinary questions the class will address. By contrast, learning outcomes should focus on what the student should know and realistically be able to do by the end of an assignment, activity, class, or course. For this reason, learning outcomes often start with a version of the phrase “By the end of this course, students will…”

The same goals addressed by learning objectives can be equally addressed by learning outcomes. By focusing on the application and integration of the course content from the perspective of the student, learning outcomes can more explicitly and directly address expectations for student learning.

In a nutshell, focusing on the result to be achieved and not just the result desired in the short term is the way educationists should shape our students. This means that schooling should have practical real life attributes. Indeed the current practice of giving students notes (syllabus) should be discontinued and students make their own notes and express their own thoughts and feelings. How will we have graduates who can make things happen if they cannot even make their own notes?

This job has to be collaborative between prospective employers and the learning institutions. The employers can participate by teaching non-academic and soft skills like CV writing, and interview and presentation skills.

One positive thing from the experts: they are positive that we can improve the current situation. Let’s get to it.

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