Yes, there are problems in education but they can’t be solved in piecemeal fashion

Monday September 17 2018

 

By CHRISTOPHER KAYUMBA
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In their campaigns in the recent parliamentary race, the presidents of PS-Imberakuri (Ms Christine Mukabunani) and the Green Party (Frank Habineza) promised to improve quality of education and “help increase teachers’ salaries” as a way of motivating them.

After the election, they continued to assure citizens that they will help increase teachers’ salaries. While it isn’t the role of MPs to increase teachers’ or anyone’s salary in the civil service, it’s commendable that this problem is being discussed.

However, just like low quality of education, the problem is being presented as if it applies to the entire education system! It doesn’t!

Generalising these problems makes it difficult to find solutions for them. The best strategy to address these challenges is to inquire not only into their cause but also pinpointing where they are located in the system.

This requires mapping the entire sector and asking “who” is paid what and “what” is taught “where.” To do that, it would help to divide the education sector by ownership and funding.

This would give us three types of schools in Rwanda: Government funded and owned, private, and church owned schools and universities.

Objectively, the most poorly paid teachers are in government schools while the best paid are in private schools.

By the same measure, although enrolment in government schools increased with the introduction of free primary and secondary education, studies conducted thus far point to poor quality of output in these schools.

As a teacher and parent, I have been privileged not only to teach at the highest levels but I have also looked at the curriculum in these schools and assessed university students and some academic papers written by senior six students in some private schools.

Where they end up

With this insight, I can report that quality in most private schools is far better than in government schools. Interestingly, most of the students who go to private schools also end up in foreign universities and those who go to government schools mostly end up in local universities!

Since foreign universities are assumed to have quality and receive quality students, we can say that our school systems produces two types of graduates: quality and half-baked graduates! In the long term, this will create inequality and unequal access to opportunities.

So why do poor quality and pay persist? There are many reasons but three things undeniably affect our education — even though they don’t require financial means to solve.

The first is the low confidence policymakers seem to have in our education system. The second is the policy of “every student must pass” that discourages hard work among students. Finally, disjointed planning and endless reforms in education.

With regard to low confidence in the system, most policymakers have historically taken their children to private rather than public schools and foreign rather than local universities!

As someone observed on social media, quality of education can only be achieved when our policymakers  educate their children in the same schools!

Secondly, while it should be the responsibility of schools to ensure that students get a good education and pass, emphasis on all students to pass demotivates them from working hard and taking independent study serious.

Finally, the vivid example of disjointed planning relate to the decision to form a single University of Rwanda from seven higher institutions in 2013. When the university was formed, it was this would enable the maximum utilization of resource and improve quality.

At the time, it was thought due diligence had been done, including studying and deciding which school or faculty should be located where and why.

However, five years later, the university is still mired in endless reform and moving faculties! Only this year, two movements were ordered! art of the explanation for the recent relocation of faculties is to contribute to the development of places like Huye, a secondary city.

However, when the decision was made to form a single university, it was also government policy to make Huye a secondary city!

That those who implemented the single university idea didn’t know this and that Huye’s economy depended on the university population is indicative of disjointed planning.

As Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege told the media after casting his vote recently, it would help if the newly elected MPs helped to reduce the flip-flop in education.

Christopher Kayumba, PhD Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, UR, Lead Consultant, MGC Consult International Ltd, E-mail: ckayumba@yahoo.com; twitter account: @Ckayumba Website: www.mgcconsult.com