Launch of Training on Virtual Math and Science Laboratories (VMSLs) Empowers Math and Science Teachers

10 Jun 2024

A portion of participants in the training on Virtual Math and Science Laboratories

The University of Rwanda-College of Education (UR-CE), in collaboration with the Rwanda Education Board (REB), launched a training program for lower secondary Math and Science teachers. This initiative, part of the Rwanda Quality Basic Education for Human Capital Development (RQBEHCD) Sub-component 1.2, is designed to equip teachers with skills to effectively use Virtual Math and Science Laboratories (VMSLs), thereby enhancing STEM education.

Funded by the World Bank, the project aims to enhance teacher effectiveness and improve student learning. The University of Rwanda-College of Education (UR-CE) partners in implementing Sub-component 1.2, focusing on modernizing instructional tools and enhancing the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge of Math and Science teachers from upper primary to lower secondary grades (P4-S3).

The training, scheduled over two weekends, 8th-9th and 15th and 16th June 2024, targets 1,832 teachers across 16 districts from Senior 1 (S1) to Senior 3 (S3) certified in the Continuous Professional Development-Innovative Teaching Maths and Science (CPD-ITMS) program. Professor Pheneas Nkundabakura, Team Leader of RQBEHCD Sub-component 1.2, emphasized that the program aims to enable educators to use VMSLs, which simulate real-world experiments and offer a scalable solution to limited access to physical lab facilities.

"Virtual Math and Science Labs allow students to explore scientific concepts through hands-on experiments, fostering a deeper understanding and enthusiasm for STEM subjects,” said Prof. Nkundabakura. Virtual laboratories have become a popular tool in STEM education, providing students with hands-on learning experiences that closely resemble real-world experiments. They supplement traditional instruction and engage students in interactive and immersive activities.

Prof.Pheneas Nkundabakura, Professor of Physics at UR-CE, and TeamLeader of RQBEHCD Sub-component
During the training, teachers were introduced to various virtual laboratory platforms and explored simulations in physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology. They learned how to access and navigate these platforms, integrating them into their lesson plans and curriculum.

By participating in the training, teachers gained valuable insights into the pedagogical benefits of virtual laboratories and learned how to incorporate them into their teaching practices. They collaborated with colleagues from different districts, shared ideas and best practices, and developed strategies for implementing virtual laboratories in their classrooms.

One key benefit of virtual laboratories is their ability to provide students with access to resources and equipment that may not be readily available in their schools, enhancing the quality of education and ensuring equal learning opportunities. Mrs. Sylvie Uwihirwe, a Math teacher from GS Kiboga, Burera District, noted that virtual labs help link theoretical concepts to practical techniques, engaging students more deeply in scientific learning.

Mrs.Sylvie Uwihirwe, a Math teacher at GS Kiboga, Burera District

Virtual laboratories also allow students to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment, fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and experimentation—essential skills in Math and Science. Mr. Claude Nshimiyimana, a Chemistry teacher from GS Gitare, Burera District, highlighted that virtual labs can safely simulate experiments involving toxic gases and complex procedures requiring expensive apparatus.

Mr. Claude Nshimiyimana, a Chemistry teacher at GS Gitare, Burera District

Teachers were introduced to platforms like PhET Interactive Simulations, PraxiLabs, and ChemCollective, gaining hands-on experience with 26 VSLs developed for the Rwandan curriculum, covering topics in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics.
The program aims to raise awareness of VMSLs’ benefits, provide practical training on their use, and integrate these tools into teaching practices. This collaborative effort involves UR-CE, REB, Kinagames Ltd, and students from UR-CE.

To enhance teaching effectiveness, the project emphasizes increasing teacher content knowledge, improving classroom practices, ensuring the availability of critical teaching materials and ICT tools, and providing continuous support to teachers. Sub-component 1.2 has introduced innovations such as scripted lessons, Virtual Science Laboratories (VSLs), and the Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach to empower Math and Science teachers in supporting students’ application of scientific skills.

Overall, the VMSL training program represents a significant step towards modernizing education in Rwanda, equipping teachers with the tools and knowledge necessary to provide a high-quality STEM education to their students.

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