Philosophers have argued for centuries on the purpose of education and its execution. Some schools of thought insist that education is empowering, a key that opens new doors and opportunities in life.
Then there are those who claim that education (especially formal) only serves to maintain the status quo.
The politico-economy of education often points to the fact that those from the lower levels of society often access poor quality education and end up with poor skills leading to low paying jobs while the children of the rich go on to attend the best schools and acquire preferred qualifications and high paying jobs.
Where education serves to simply maintain the status quo, then education policymakers have their work cut out. They must devise ways of dealing with this problem so as to steer education towards an empowering role.
In other words, students should not only acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes but also the applicability of the same in order to make it in life.
Currently, a lot of attention is accorded to science subjects almost at the expense of arts and this has created another unnecessary divide in our education system.
For strategic reasons, the Government chose to prioritise sciences and gone ahead to sponsor more science students than arts students at the university, creating a sense of hopelessness among the latter.
This is not really necessary since the country can not survive with only doctors and engineers. Rwanda also needs its lawyers and journalists if it is to achieve its development targets.
Instead, teachers and all those involved in formulating education policies in the country need to restore hope among students studying arts so that they do not feel like they are sitting in a boat whose engine has run out of fuel.
To achieve this, teachers must desist from making the learning process one way (consumption only). The business of simply standing before students talking endlessly about World War I or the Crimean War is not helpful at all.
Teaching these subjects should focus on critical thinking and analysis instead of simply copying notes, cramming and reproducing them in exams. Critical thinking will enable students to see the applicability of what they are studying in class to their lives and society.
Making an education process relevant requires an individual’s glimpse of the future.
Armed with critical thinking and analytical skills arts students are more employable in the job market and have the ability to be job creators.
For example; Rwanda has a very promising tourism sector. Students studying tourism courses should be armed with the necessary skills to start their own business initiatives to tap into the country’s tourism potential.
It is always a pity to see a student, who spent years reading about the French Revolution leaving school and never reading anything else. This implies that this student used to only read to pass exams—they never really acquired the love for reading.
Things like debates and essay writing should be encouraged so as to nurture proactive students ready to tackle the challenges of this world.
Those intending to become journalists should be able to contribute to a students’ newsletter or at least to read news to fellow students.
Any one desiring to be a lawyer or parliamentarian should be at the forefront of the school’s debating club.
The problem today is that students taking science subjects at the Advanced Level already know that they will be doctors or engineers after school while those taking arts are often unsure of what they want to do with their lives.
This is where the aspect of career guidance comes in to inform students of the career possibilities awaiting them. Once the relevance of these subjects is clearly presented, students will duly be motivated to work hard.