Schools will now not allow learners to proceed to the next level if they fail to meet the set grade in line with instructions issued last year.
The ministerial order passed in February 2020 relating to promotion, repetition, dismissal and transfer of learners indicate that except for nursery schools where no child should be made to repeat a class or be dismissed from school, academic merit will strictly be enforced when it comes to promotion of learners in primary secondary, as well as technical and vocational schools.
However, with the onset of the pandemic, schools did not enforce the rules.
On Monday, the Ministry of Education announced that as schools reopen, more than 60,000 learners at Primary Six and Senior Three who missed the pass mark in the just released national exam results will be forced to repeat classes.
“If the new rules are implemented across all levels this year, 40 per cent of the students would repeat,” Andre Rushigajiki, head of GS Ruhondo, a school in Gicumbi District with more than 1,324students, told Rwanda Today.
In particular, the rules dictate that lower primary learners are promoted from one level to another only if they are capable of reading, writing and counting based on the curriculum of each level.
Besides, learners of upper primary, secondary and TVET levels who fail in assessments and examinations by schools, districts or those at national level cannot be promoted to the next level.
The automatic promotion is being discontinued after more than two decades of concerns over wanting education quality despite laudable progress in boosting school access that saw the country achieve one of the highest gross enrollment rates at over 100 per cent and low rate of out-of-school children over the past years.
Analysts say that while the strides can be attributed to a series of reforms such as the launch of nine-year basic education in 2006 and its extension to 12 years, it did little to deliver improved learning outcomes.
This is because for a long time, schools were compelled to limit repeaters to less than 10 per cent with almost all the children having to proceed to the next grade irrespective of their performance in exams and assessments.
This helped to check high teacher-to-learner ratio, and helped deal with overcrowding and double shifts. However, educationists say it no longer made sense after constant expansion of school infrastructure and in view of the shift to the competence-based curriculum.
“We see challenges in implementation. We already had a big number of dropouts worsened by the pandemic, and without ways to track repeaters we will see numbers rise even further,” said Benson Rukabu, Rwanda Education for All Coalition national coordinator.
The focus on academic performance in promotion of learners will put pressure on schools, teachers and parents to constantly follow up on children to ensure attainment of better learning outcomes and performance at examinations.
The education regulator already indicates that students’ good performance will serve as the basis of teachers’ contract evaluation and appraisal.