Rwanda: Back to School - Choosing Between Cambridge and National Curriculum

20 September 2022

Come September 26, all students studying under the national curriculum, mainly those studying in public schools, will go back to school going by the new dates recently announced by the Ministry of Education.

This will come after most students who undertake international curriculums such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), commonly known as Cambridge, or even the International Baccalaureate, have already gone back to school.

International Baccalaureate is a set of examinations intended to qualify successful candidates for higher education in any of several countries.

Most parents in Rwanda grapple with the choice of the direction their children take, particularly when it comes to upper grades, when the question of where will their children study at a later stage.

Cambridge and the National curriculum all have advantages for parents to choose for thier child. Photo: File.

However, according to Eugene Munyurangabo, a veteran teacher and educationist, the choice of what curriculum the children should take on is something that should not worry parents because as the adage goes 'all roads read to Rome.'

"There is a general perception that children pursuing international syllabuses are automatically set to study abroad in very good universities and succeed in their careers. Some think it is a given."

"On the other hand, there is an assumption that kids who go through the national curriculum are meant to struggle and their chances to succeed are minimal because the national curriculum is limited. These two perceptions are not true," says Munyurangabo.

He points out that each of the two systems have their own benefits, respectively, but to succeed or not to succeed largely depends on the brilliance and academic excellence of a child, regardless of which curricula they are pursuing.

"Over the years, we've seen children who studied through the national curriculum exceling and going to Ivy League universities and on the other hand, a child can study through Cambridge and other international programmes and still fail to thrive academically," explains Munyurangabo.

Most importantly, he says the parent's choice should be purely informed by the advantages of both systems and what they want for their children.

Advantages of both

Proponents of the national curriculum say it provides an entitlement to all children in Rwanda to be taught a range of subjects that are linked to the country as well as international subjects.

Seven years ago, Rwanda, through the Rwanda Education Board (REB) introduced a new curriculum for primary and secondary schools, known as the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC).

The reform of the national curriculum was mainly based on the need to shift from simply acquiring knowledge to emphasis on practical knowledge, skills and attitudes, to produce students who will provide solutions to address Rwanda's specific challenges and also compete on the global stage.

It also sought to address issues like rigidity or lack of flexibility for both teachers and students, to venture beyond what is in the books to discover other abilities of a child.

Students who study through the country's competency-based curriculum stand a chance of gaining core competencies, including literacy and numeracy, understanding foreign languages, entrepreneurial skills, ICT and communication skills as well as a wide range of interpersonal skills.

Depending on the school your child goes to, if these core competencies are gained and the child proves they can excel in them academically, they can end up anywhere in the world.

Beyond that, the national curriculum gives children an opportunity to get acquainted with their own country, history and cultural practices.

There are many schools in Rwanda, even here in Kigali, such as Kigali Parents and King David that produce high quality students who get admitted abroad.

Benefits of Cambridge curriculum

On the other, the Cambridge curriculum is an international British curriculum that is being offered by most international schools in Rwanda.

It allows students the opportunity to obtain an internationally accredited education with a clearly defined pathway for educational success from pre-primary right through to graduation.

The Cambridge curriculum school offers transnational coursework and approaches with local aspects or perspectives. The Cambridge curriculum has become a sought-after program globally.

It offers a blend of basic academic foundation, co-curricular exercises, and holistic learning, a concept which enables students to engage with various subjects while establishing connections.

This curriculum emphasises problem-solving learning and strong presentation skills. It brings an integrated approach to help transform learners into global citizens.

The main advantage is that Cambridge curriculum is international, hence many colleges and companies recognise it globally as a standard measure for education, mainly because it is versatile, challenging, and motivating.

Cambridge learners get an inquisitive mind and a lifelong desire to study and are also known to develop the necessary skills for success in college and their future career.

Students pursuing Cambridge acquire international credentials which hold value around the world.

However, one can also integrate the Cambridge curriculum with national curricula as some schools have done, offering both worlds. With Cambridge, students transferring between schools can continue their studies using the same curriculum.

Cambridge curriculum and certifications are valid in many schools worldwide. It is the English-medium component of a bilingual education programme.

It also provides flexibility and allows students to work towards the program with dedication.

In conclusion, as a parent, your duty is to provide your children with the best education experience based on your means and resources. At the end of the day, brilliant students are destined for excellence.

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