20 January 2013

Rwanda: Discipline and Focus Was Key in Exams Success

Looking at the schools that produced the best students in the 2012 Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) and Ordinary Level Examinations (O' level), one can comfortably conclude that ensuring high levels of discipline and undivided focus on the very mission of providing education remain the secret for helping students succeed.

It really can't be an accident that all the country's ten best candidates for O' level and five out of ten best candidates for PLE came from church-owned schools.

It is rather a result of the schools' hard work invested in ensuring that students don't divert their attention to other things that may contradict their education mission and investing in infrastructure and human resource capacities that help the students realise their dreams. Church-owned schools are therefore susceptible to focus more on providing these things if they continue to emerge the best.

It is only in 2003 that New Life Christian Academy, which produced five out of ten best candidates for PLE, opened its doors with a mission to ensure that even those children from poor families perform equally with those from wealthy families.

While being a Christian school may not be enough to explain its success, attachment to the church may be helping it to ensure a discipline that local leaders have learnt to appreciate.

The Mayor of Kayonza District where the New Life Academy is located, John Mugabo, did not sound surprised when the school emerged the best and he mentioned discipline and infrastructure as the reasons why the school performed well.

"Besides infrastructure, water and electricity, the school has competent teachers who have a mastery of the English language and it has a good administration," he told Sunday Times.

Yes, mastering English helps in today's Rwanda because the language of instruction has been turned from French to English.

But wait, use of English may not be the major factor behind the performance of schools and their students. If it were, six of the country's top ten candidates for O' level wouldn't have still come from Catholic Church-owned schools. It is simply amazing that Petit Séminaire St Vincent in Ndera, Petit séminaire Saint Pie X in Nyundo, PetitSéminaire Saint Léon in Kabgayi, Byimana Sciences School, and Ecole Notre Dame de La Providence de Karubanda, which are historically high performing schools in Rwanda, still make it to the list of those who produced the best ten candidates in the country for 2012 O' level exams despite the switch to instructing students and passing exams in English.

That makes me agree with Sister Gorette Mukarubayiza, the headmistress of Ecole Notre Dame de La Providence de Karubanda that "maintaining discipline among students as well as ensuring that they receive the quality education" is the real secret for ensuring students'success.

"We ensure that students are in the right place at the right time...if it is time to study, students must be in class; if it is time to play, eat or pray we ensure they are at the right place. That kind of discipline plays a big role in their performance," Mukarubayiza told Sunday Times right after the release of the results.

And how interesting that the school which produced the first and second best students among the ten best candidates for O' level regularly has all its students sit for mandatory beginning of term tests immediately after opening from holidays?

Nu-Vision High School, a mixed boarding Christian school which says it is guided by the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy, boasts of what it calls "outstanding resources and facilities" and it makes you think when they also write on their website that class size matters for them.

"We strive to keep the recommended 1:30 student teacher ratio. The classes are kept small to sustain teachers' efficacy in attending to individual student's' needs," the school wrote in its online academic policy.

Let's not think above the basic rule of educating children in an environment where essential discipline is enforced and appropriate resources are offered if we want to ensure a good quality of education and nurture our future talents. It's an open secret.

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