Exploring the new curriculum

The world today is changing, and rapidly. As countries become more interconnected, so are all sectors of life — education, technology, trade among others. It is more common today to see people from all parts of the world seeking employment elsewhere and with the hope that they won’t be turned down because of their tribe, gender or race. Instead, one can only be denied a job if they don’t have the required skills. As a result, some governments are preparing their citizens to be marketable on the international scene. That is why Rwanda Education Board (REB), starting 2016, is set to revamp the curriculum to fit international (UNESCO) standards.
Pupils will learn how to think rather than cram. (Solomon Asaba)
Pupils will learn how to think rather than cram. (Solomon Asaba)

The world today is changing, and rapidly. As countries become more interconnected, so are all sectors of life — education, technology, trade among others.

It is more common today to see people from all parts of the world seeking employment elsewhere and with the hope that they won’t be turned down because of their tribe, gender or race. Instead, one can only be denied a job if they don’t have the required skills.

As a result, some governments are preparing their citizens to be marketable on the international scene. That is why Rwanda Education Board (REB), starting 2016, is set to revamp the curriculum to fit international (UNESCO) standards.

The changes

According to REB, all subjects from kindergarten to Primary Three will be taught in Kinyarwanda as a core language of communication. Research findings in Africa, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world have established that a child who studies in their mother tongue grasps concepts far better than a child who learns in a foreign language. 

“Kinyarwanda as a subject will have an extra hour per week,” says Dr Joyce Musabe, the deputy director general of REB (curriculum development). The number of hours will increase to 8 from 7.

Verdiana Grace Masanja, a professor of mathematics and director of research at University of Rwanda, agrees with making Kinyarwanda the core language and argues that it should also be used in higher institutions of learning.

“Certainly the learning will be very much improved if children learn their first concepts in their mother tongue (Kinyarwanda). In this case, a child has higher ability to innovatively use the concepts than peers who learn in foreign languages,” Masanja explains.

The new curriculm also seeks to make mathematics more practical through demonstrations.

Aloys Kayinamura, a mathematics teacher and curriculum developer at REB, says: “Games, songs and textbook research to facilitate mental activity after developing concepts will all be utillised.”

Antoine Butera, a teacher of mathematics at Well Spring Academy, adds that group discussions and DVDs will be some of new methods employed by the teachers in the new approach.

“Referring to mathematics as a hard subject will become history, since there will be both implementation and assessment after studies,” she adds.

According to the new curriculum, history will also be reviewed and made more relevant to Rwandans. 

“The history syllabus will have an element on the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The aim is to help our children know that history in a bid to prevent a repeat of what happened in 1994. It will seek to impart integrity, peace and values,” says Jean Damascene Habanabashaka, an ICT and computer science specialist. “The Ndimunyarwanda programme and early childhood education will also be given more prominence.”

Musabe further explains that entrepreneurship students will be trained on how they can be job creators than seekers; while agriculture studies will emphasise the principles of food processing that will benefit society.

The upcoming programme also treats sports and gymnastics as any other subject and will be examinable. Musabe says sports will be included on the subject timetable starting 2016. This is meant to promote talent and fitness.

While the current curriculum runs for 36 weeks annually, the new curriculum will run for 39 weeks in order to meet the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) standards.

Challenges, solutions

This project, though good, is ambitious and costly. For instance, if you intend to promote the culture of research among students, you ought to have Internet facilities countrywide. The government will, according to Musabe, need to print new text books to suit the new syllabus. Teachers also need to be trained to be able to deliver as expected. This is no easy thing for any country.

According to Annah Baguma, an economics teacher at Kayonza Modern School, research by students will be facilitated by the One Laptop per Child programme to facilitate studies as well as drawing.

Musabe also says the Government is working with international partners to ensure that they have enough resources to implement this new programme. “We know it is expensive but we must start somewhere. Now that we are almost done with redesigning the curriculum, the money issue can follow. This curriculum will completely change Rwanda,” she says, adding that the project will be implemented in three stages which means they don’t have to have all the money at ago.

Asked if they have the capacity to build and equip laboratories for every school, Musabe responds: “Every district has a model school with a fully equipped laboratory. What schools do is to simply make arrangements with the model school in order to use the laboratory at no cost.”

A study by Education Times also reveals that not all teachers are excited about the new curriculum. According to some teachers, many of whom are based upcountry, the rate at which the curriculum has been changing is tiring to them.

“The current curriculum is not even five years old, and they are already changing it,” a teacher in Muhanga district told this paper.  

Musabe, however, says this will not affect the programme from going on.

“We shall sensitise and educate the teachers about the value of this new curriculum so that they embrace it,” she says.

Although the duration of the implementation appears short, Masanja insists that that is not a problem.

“The key issue is not the duration of the curriculum revision, rather the methodology to be used, the inclusiveness of the various stakeholders as well as local experts trained in curriculum design, involving teachers who have long experiences, school inspectors, private providers and other key stakeholders such as higher education institutions and employers to make the curriculum relevant to local needs are essential.”

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