When it comes to education I can never tire to emphasise the need for quality. Since a country can never be more developed than its education system, then it is clear that a quality-laden education system must be in place so as to engineer the much sought after development.
And even if I was asked to choose between quantity and quality as far as education is concerned, my preference, without hesitation, would be quality. This is because I am convinced that a few qualified people are more useful to a country than millions of half baked people.
I also find it quite unfortunate that the rather vocal campaign for education as a basic human right has been largely silent on the issue of quality education. The Education For All (EFA) campaign has been successful only as far as extending education to the poorest people in the world at a free or subsidised cost is concerned.
Several countries provide free primary and lower secondary school education and more children are going to school. However, my biggest concern is how competent these students become after school. Besides erecting buildings and hiring teachers, there is a need to teach students how to become useful job creators after their education.
At the beginning of this week it was reported that Rwanda was at advanced stages of adjusting its university calendar to match that of other East African countries. The point is to have Rwandan university students starting their academic year at the same time as their colleagues in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
The timetable shift is bound to ease the transfer of students from one university to another within the East African region. A student at the National University of Rwanda would be able to apply for an exchange programme with any other university in these countries.
More importantly, the move is in line with the principle of regional integration as the East African Community moves towards a Political Federation. Rwanda is largely known for its undoubting zeal in regional integration. The switch from French to English as a language of instruction is one clear example of Rwanda’s determination.
The recent programme to train teachers on how to effectively teach in English was a step in the right direction. Additionally, efforts should be directed at equipping schools with the necessary laboratory equipment as well asstocking libraries with the relevant books for education.
This will improve the level of competitiveness among Rwandan universities and, consequently, with those in the region. The practice of Rwandan students sitting pre-entry exams and tests before joining universities in the region should be tamed if the standard of our education system is raised.
From lower primary all the way to university, Rwanda (and other EAC countries) should endeavour to have a standard educational dispensation. If this is not achieved then we shall continue to struggle with educational inequalities. This calls for a uniform East African Curriculum, not just the same school opening time schedules.