EDITORIAL: English is fine in primary school but a predictable policy will do us good

Sunday December 22 2019

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Predictable policy is key to achieving progress in the sector. PHOTO FILE  

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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Effective 2020-2021 academic year, the Kinyarwanda language will no longer be used as the medium of instruction in lower primary—primary one to primary three, according to the Ministry of Education.

Yet the competency-based curriculum that came into effect in 2015 made Kinyarwanda the language of learning in pre-primary and lower primary while other languages are taught as subjects.

The new policy means all schools will use English as the medium of instruction in lower primary and upper primary.

However, the decision caught many off guard — including key stakeholders (parents, teachers and children) — leading to a public outcry.

While the Ministry of Education has defended its decision, pointing out that it did some consultation, public reaction to their statement indicates otherwise.

The Ministry of Education is expected to go ahead with its plans leaving the key stakeholders with no choice but to adopt. But many hope for stability in the education sector in particular policy.

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Predictable policy is key to achieving progress in the sector, which continues to struggle with quality with limited outcomes.

Predictable policy also facilitates a better understanding of the curriculum content and to a more positive attitude towards school. More effort is needed to mobilise parents because learning does not begin in school.

Learning starts at home in the learner’s home language. A crucial learning aim in the early years of education is the development of basic literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Essentially, the skills of reading and writing come down to the ability to associate the sounds of a language with the letters or symbols used in the written form.

These skills build on the foundational and interactional skills of speaking and listening. Currently, the formal education system is not reaching its full potential in supporting positive social interactions between children, teachers and parents.

Moreover, the lack of engagement from overburdened teachers continues to undermine output. Parents’ support and involvement needs to be strengthened, therefore, for instance by: building on the existing parent associations; raising awareness of the importance of education and engaging parents in their children’s education.

And perhaps more importantly, more collaborative interventions are still needed in the education  sector. For example, such a major shift in the language of instruction require buy-in, involvement and awareness of teachers, parents, children as well as local authorities.

From the highlights above, it is not so farfetched to say Rwanda’s education system is at a crossroads, especially with numerous changes in the medium of instruction.

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