“Our research showed that teachers had many innovative pedagogical strategies, which included but were not limited to helping students learn English and subject content,” Associate Professor Eugene Ndabaga and Dr. Pui Ki Patricia Kwok commented.

08 Aug 2023

The University of Rwanda-Nyagatare Campus students and staff are delighted to have attended the seminar that featured the presentation of the findings of the recently completed research entitled a collaborative research conducted by Associate Professor Eugene Ndabaga the Director of Research and Innovation, at the University of Rwanda-College of Education, and Dr. Pui Ki Patricia Kwok, ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Their research is entitled “Transitioning to an unfamiliar medium of Instruction : pedagogical strategies used by Rwandan primary school teachers to enable Learning” and was funded by the Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund.

The audience in the seminar at UR- Nyagatare Campus

Following the implementation of a competence-based curriculum (CBC) in Rwanda since 2016, many challenges have been reported across the education system. In recognition of using an unfamiliar medium of instruction as one of the key barriers to implementing CBC and delivering equitable quality education, this collaborative research was designed to explore strategies primary school teachers used to support students learning. There were 24 teachers across four 12-Year Basic Education schools in Kigali City who took part in this research.

The research specifically sought to achieve three goals :
• To co-produce evidence to inform policies and teacher training, which can help to improve the implementation of the Competence-based Curriculum in Rwanda.
• To engage deeply with teacher perspectives and appreciate their wide range of innovative pedagogical strategies related to teaching and learning in English as an unfamiliar medium of instruction.
• To encourage future research to go beyond an evaluative lens on teachers that often focus on their proficiency or skills, but instead to also value and recognize teachers’ innovative capacity.

The presentation was made by Dr. Pui Ki Patricia Kwok, supported by Barthelemy Bizimana, and facilitated by Assoc. Prof Eugene Ndabaga. The audience was offered an opportunity to reflect on the research findings and to identify lessons that can inform their learning and future directions in teaching and research.

Dr. Kwok first highlighted various key challenges of CBC implementation she found from working with teachers through her prior research. These included the paucity of pedagogical resources, and large class sizes, among various issues related to teacher training, teachers, school leaders, students, and parents.

Dr. Kwok as she was presenting the findings

She also highlighted the role of the medium of instruction. “While it may be obvious that language is the key to effective communication within the classroom, teachers we interviewed also shared that language was valued for promoting positive socio-emotional experiences for students, as well as inclusion. For example, many teachers found that the so-called ‘slow’ learners were struggling not because they lacked the capacity or were ‘weak’. Not at all. Many students were unable to participate in classroom learning meaningfully because of the unfamiliar language,” she said.

In terms of research findings, the team indicated that teachers played significant roles in supporting students to transition from using Kinyarwanda to English. Dr. Kwok summarised succinctly the lesson they learned from engaging with teachers.
"While most prior research has critiqued teachers’ English proficiency, we argue that there is more to appreciate beyond this deficit-driven narrative. Our research showed that teachers had many innovative pedagogical strategies, which included but were not limited to helping students learn English and subject content,” she noted.

She added that they had also reported drawing on visual resources and using wider strategies to engage students in learning. She went on to say that a strong awareness of supporting students with different needs was also widely recognized.

Assoc. Prof. Ndabaga emphasized the importance of understanding the barriers to teaching-and-learning, but also identifying solutions to these barriers.
“We know that switching to English as a medium of instruction is not easy for teachers and students. We have many other challenges which are very well-known, but that does not mean that we cannot teach well. As teachers, like what this research has shown while waiting for support from different levels, we can still try our best to help students.”

Assoc. Prof. Niyibizi as he was delivering the closing remarks to the audience

In his remarks, Assoc. Prof. Epimaque Niyibizi the Deputy Dean of UR-CE School of Education encouraged staff and students to continue attending similar events. While officially closing the seminar, he underlined, “We understood our teachers still faced many challenges in delivering the curriculum and teaching in English. But this research showed us opportunities to build on, and how we can help more teachers to develop different pedagogical strategies.”

This completed research involved a partnership between UR-CE represented by Assoc. Prof. Eugene Ndabaga, Director of Research and Innovation, and the University of Cambridge in the UK represented by Prof. Ricardo Sabates, Professor of Education and International Development. In addition to Dr. Pui Ki Patricia Kwok, also collaborated on this work with Sylvestre Ntabajyana Barthelemy Bizimana, Lecturers of Literature, and Philosophy and Sociology of Education respectively at UR-CE.

The full paper can be accessed at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883035523000708

Story contributed by Dr. Pui Ki Patricia Kwok
ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Reviewed by
Public Relations and Community Engagement
University of Rwanda-College of Education
Tel : +250788568937
Email : sntirandekura@gmail.com


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