There seems to be a proposal to revise the curriculum of the different levels of general education in Rwanda which would lead to an increase in the number of subjects and hours of instruction.
According to this proposal, the number of subjects at level A would increase from six to nine compulsory subjects per learner and per combination and at secondary level below 16.
This proposal is of great concern and has serious educational implications which must be considered very carefully before being implemented.
The review should, in the first place, be based on a thorough evaluation of the existing curriculum which is itself the result of an overhaul carried out by professional and experienced educators from Rwanda and around the world.
Let us first consider the number of teaching periods suggested in the proposed changes. The proposal of 52 periods per week and 1365 hours of teaching per year at all levels of general education from primary onwards implies that there are 10.4 periods per day assuming a school week of five days, or 8.67 periods per day if school time is six days. one week. The question then arises: how will the learners fit into these daily periods?
Such a number of periods is well beyond the limit of internationally accepted standards based on the UNESCO recommendation of 900 periods per year, which is much less. The implementation as proposed would place a heavy burden on learners with dire consequences.
In any case, a change of this nature is only pedagogically justifiable if it is supposed to lead to a fundamental transformation in line with national aspirations and the individual development of learners.
Let us also look at the proposal to increase the A-level subjects from six to nine compulsory subjects. A little background will help.
The choice to introduce level A combinations of 3 or 4 main subjects and a general examination was no accident. This was the philosophy adopted to give Rwandan students more in-depth subject coverage in order to meet the entry requirements of the best universities in the world, especially in Commonwealth countries and other countries that require only 3 core subjects.
Entrepreneurship as a core major and a language elective subject for all combinations were added later to make a total of six subjects for all combinations at level A.
The assumption was that the coverage of the 3 official languages in primary and lower secondary was sufficient on the basis of the content of the program already developed.
This situation has not changed.
The program implemented since 2015 is Rwandan in nature but compared to the best practices of different countries and reputable educational institutions.
It and the programs based on it are, in fact, a hybrid benchmark of programs and programs in the region and beyond, in particular some of the Commonwealth and Southeast Asian countries, and of the Diploma of the international baccalaureate.
The Rwandan curriculum today is by no means inferior as the learning curricula or subject content are up to par and this can be verified by comparison with the curricula and content of other systems such as Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate.
Programs are reviewed periodically around the world, but there must be compelling reasons for this and a specific goal to be achieved.
Most countries and institutions that identify the need to reform and revise the curriculum for any level of education do so for substantial justifiable reasons, such as restructuring the entire education system.
If there is no restructuring that dictates the change, the main objective of the exam is normally to rationalize the gaps or overloads of content or the pedagogical approach that hamper the teaching and learning processes. , and assess whether the learning outcomes required by the individual needs of the learners, society and the labor market have been achieved
The other objective is to check whether the learners are able to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and competences described in the existing curriculum and to be able to adapt them to the needs of the society and to the national aspirations.
The individual subjects to be developed and the teaching hours or periods to be covered per week or per year must be appropriate and adapted to the needs of the learner and to national aspirations.
Education policy makers must therefore be careful about why the curriculum should be revised and why the number of subjects and hours of instruction at all levels should be increased.
Rather, they should do more to support program implementation which is not happening at the desired pace and intensity.
As it stands, some policies to strengthen the implementation of the current program are not fully in place.
For example, key elements such as the Curriculum and Assessment Policy, the Language Policy and the Policy on Learning and Teaching Materials have never been submitted for approval since 2016, although they are be cited in the education strategic plan as part of policy documents.
The implementation also involves the monitoring and evaluation of learning processes and the in-service training of teachers in the pedagogical approach of competency-based learning to strengthen the learner-centered approach.
According to education experts, the increase in the number of subjects and hours of instruction per day creates an overload for learners and constitutes a real danger for balanced social and intellectual development.
Such overload is often associated with learner stress which results in a negative attitude towards learning and a decrease in overall performance.
Conversely, there are proven advantages to having a reasonable number of subjects. This allows the learner to acquire a deeper knowledge of the subject and to develop a richer understanding and higher order thinking ability.
It facilitates more active learning which in turn increases learning motivation which includes developmental inquiry and research skills
If students do not have enough time to explore new concepts in a meaningful way and the curriculum is not flexible, this leads to poorer learner achievement outcomes.
Experts also argue that if subject content is transferred to learners ‘personal time as homework or homework, it ultimately has a potentially negative impact on students’ mental and physical health.
Too many learning hours or too many homework subjects is also a common challenge when it comes to tackling program overload.
Therefore, they argue, learners may need to spend more time studying outside of school hours in addition to regular extracurricular activities that might interfere with time to socialize and be with friends, time to play, time to exercise, and time to sleep.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer.