As our future digitalises, students and pupils in schools cannot be left behind. Rwanda is aware of the potential and opportunities digitalisation brings towards the development of the country, and this in different sectors. According to Alexander De Croo, Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation, digitalisation will play an important role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In Rwanda’s case, SDG 4, on quality education for all, can benefit tremendously from the country’s technological ambitions. VVOB – education for development, wants to tap into this potential with its programmes in Rwanda in Primary and Secondary Education.
Rwanda’s vision on ICT in education
ICT-based education is part of Rwanda’s Vision 2020, which aims to transform Rwanda from a low-income society to a middle-income, knowledge-based economy. The ICT In Education Policy (Ministry Of Education, 2016), and the Open, distance and eLearning policy (Ministry Of Education, 2016), make clear that Rwanda prioritises ICT in education. This ICT In Education Policy was developed to integrate ICT into classroom learning, in first instance by equipping schools with necessary infrastructure and hardware, while also targeting teacher professional development. While the current situation is challenging, the targets put forward are ambitious.
Access to ICT and teacher professional development
As mentioned in the ICT In Education policy: infrastructure is still inadequate in a lot of parts in the country. Many schools do not have computers or internet access. And even less than 50 percent of schools have an electricity connection. Another key challenge is preparing the teaching workforce for the effective use of ICT in teaching and learning. According to the ICT In Education Policy, the absence of a culture around the use of ICT also prevented the widespread adoption of such tools in education, as did the limited availability of digital content, expertise and project coordination.
VVOB wants to tap into this potential with its programmes in Rwanda (2017-2021), “Leading, Teaching and Learning Together—Umusemburo w’Ireme ry’Uburezi (LT)2" in Primary and Secondary Education. VVOB partners with Rwanda Education Board (REB) and the University of Rwanda – College of Education (URCE) to support school leaders and teachers in basic education, on professional development. In the framework of the programme Continuous Professional Development courses, with certification by the URCE, are being offered to headteachers, deputy head teachers, school-based mentor teachers, teacher training colleges (TTC) tutors, subject leaders and sector education officers. All these courses are now being re-developed for delivery in a blended format: online learning coupled with face-to-face sessions. This means traditional learning formats will be “blended” with online and digital media. A blended approach offers great flexibility to learners because it allows them to learn at their own pace and time. This helps them develop ownership of their own learning. It prepares learners for the future of learning and work. And by using an online learning system, digital literacy of the trainees will improve as well. Equally, the programme will be more scalable in a cost-effective way. Together with the URCE, VVOB will develop a blended learning strategy and redevelop courses to efficiently fit into this format.
Preparing learners for the use of ICT
Prior to the commencement of this learning trajectory, VVOB will provide an ICT-essentials course based on UNESCO’s ICT Essentials For Teachers framework. To tailor this course to the needs of trainees, VVOB has conducted ICT assessment in multiple districts within the country. The online learning platform Moodle was used for this purpose, as trainees will be using this same platform for their blended learning. Essential ICT-skills were tested to get a clear view on the users’ capabilities. Based on the assessment outcomes VVOB will know in which topics extra attention needs to be given in the course, as well as prepare users to effectively participate in a blended learning format.
4600 teachers and head teachers will benefit
A first cohort consisting of 452 head teachers and deputy head teachers from 14 districts, will start participating in blended learning from September this year. Constant re-evaluation and feedback from learners will help in continuous quality enhancement of the blended courses, both their online and face-to-face components. By the end of 2021, more than 1900 head teachers and deputy head teachers, more than 1200 mentor teachers and around 1500 subject leaders will have completed the courses on effective school leadership and educational mentoring and coaching in a blended trajectory