Government has abandoned a decision to force private primary schools to teach in Kinyarwanda as a language of instruction up to primary three (P3).
In a long meeting held Monday in Kigali called by hundreds of owners of private schools to meet the Education Minister Dr Eugene Mutimura, it was finally settled that they can keep the programs they have been using in English.
According to the Education Sector Strategic Plan developed in 2013 by the Ministry of Education, Kinyarwanda is supposed to be used as the medium of instruction and English and French as subjects in all lower primary schools, public as well as private.
Bach in July this year, Government announced that beginning in the first term in 2020, all schools in Rwanda will use Kinyarwanda as language for teaching from kindergarten to P3. Government says this was meant to improve pupil’s learning and language proficiency.
Many government schools had already started using the system for past years. This time, government was requiring that all primary and kindergarten levels do the same.
The policy got very few backers, with voices against it claiming it had other ulterior motives. Some said the people taking the decision had their children in foreign countries and were comfortable offering poor education to Rwandans.
The backers of the development laboured to explain that research shows that kids who have studied in a language they understand, were more able to learn other subjects or languages later.
Proprietors of private schools for their part were more vocal in opposition to the policy change.
Many of the schools teach foreigners in Rwanda, while in some, parents categorically chose them because of the need to have their kids learn in English and French at an early stage. In homes where kids speak foreign languages, it is usually the parent’s pride.
The Education Minister also confirmed that the latest changes concern all school, both public and private schools. This was not clear in the meeting, but then the ministry released a statement late evening to that effect.
Education Minister Dr Mutimura said in the meeting today: “What we now require of you [private schools] is that you ensure your curriculum emphasizes perfection in Kinyarwanda, English and French.”
“You can maintain English or French as a language of instruction, but Kinyarwanda will be taught as [a] subject throughout primary school level.”
Even if government is letting private schools teach in their language of choice, it comes with tough caveats.
From P4, all pupils will start to learn the French language because once they reach S4, the national exam will include French. So French will be among the obligatory examinable subjects at O’Level.
Throughout the meeting as Dr Mutimura spoke, the representatives of private schools repeatedly gave him applause as he made the announcement. They were happy government has let them keep their business.