The English language has gained a lot of currency in Rwanda in the recent past. There has been a remarkable increase in the number of people who have gained literacy in the English language.
Teachers of English have remained attractive to the Rwandan labour market as individuals, private companies and government institutions have continued soliciting for their highly coveted services.
The transition of the education sector from the Francophone to the Anglophone system has been characterized by an influx of expatriates to give technical assistance in the transition process.
The Ministry of Education has been on the lead to ensure that the new order works.
Key to the success of the Anglophone system has been frantic efforts to build English competence among the francophone teachers through English language training programmes.
Last year, these programmes that began in December and extended to the end of January led to delays in the opening of schools. This year, the training programme begins in mid November and is expected to end in mid December.
Whether or not the programme will be extended is still unknown. However, one thing is clear rigorous training is needed. It will not be easy to have the same level of achievement for classes of teachers with greatly varying levels of English language competence. While some teachers attending the programme are knowledgeable of the English language skills, others are completely ignorant.
However, the input of some non-governmental organisations like the Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) who supplement the government’s efforts in improving educational instruction in English, are welcome.
All these programmes come in handy as the Rwanda National Examination Council prepares to completely shift from the two-tier system of examining in French and English to English only.
Another new development in the curriculum is the introduction of English language communication skills as a compulsory nonexaminable subject in “A” level with effect from 2011. This means that all students in the Arts, Science and Language combinations will have to continue with the study of English.
The rationale of the inclusion of the English language is meant to sharpen the students’ communicative ability as the language continues to be used as a medium of instruction in schools, government institutions and as a lingua franca, especially in Kigali, which is very cosmopolitan.
Despite the few challenges that may be facing the transition to the Anglophone system, the government’s relentless support has boldly shattered pessimism and skepticism to see the remarkable gains made so far.
The author is the Director of Studies at Nu Vision High School, Kabuga.