Education in Rwanda


Education in Rwanda was informal and delivered largely through the family. Training was also delivered through amatorero training schools. These courses included the military and war skills, iron smith and foundry, poetry, basket making, etc.

1900 to 1960

A Belgian census of 1933 led to the measurement and the classification of the population along racial and ethnic lines. Tutsi were given access to the best education at the prestigious Astrida Secondary School and groomed for colonial ‘’administrative jobs’’, ethnic tensions grew as a result. Hutus were often used as forced labor and many migrated to surrounding countries. The tensions grew up until 1959 when civil war broke out and many Tutsi were killed. Others went into exile.

1960 to 1994

After independence, the focus was on the restructuring of the education system and development of a national curriculum. The main goal was to reach more Rwandan children and in particular to improve access to schooling in rural areas. A national curriculum and double shifting were introduced in 1966. From 1977 on, primary school 8 years of in Kinyarwanda, while 3 years of post-primary and secondary education were taught in French.

1994 to 2012

Post-genocide years focused on human capital rebuilding and increasing enrollment rates. 1996 saw the introduction of 6-year primary, 3-year lower secondary, and 3-year upper secondary education, where Kinyarwanda was the language of teaching up to lower secondary, which changed to French and English in upper secondary.

In 2006, The 4th Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP 2006–2010) introduced fee-free schooling for 9YBE – 9 Year Basic Education  including primary and lower secondary. While enrollment rates have gone up, school related costs remain a barrier for many.

In 2008, in an effort to stimulate Rwanda’s integration with the East African Community (EAC), English was adopted as the national teaching language, and only the first 3 years of primary are still taught in Kinyarwanda.

Several new authorities were created:

The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) was created in 2008 to address the growing need for better, more, and more demand-driven technical and vocational training. The WDA focuses on TVET.

The Rwanda Education Board (REB), established in 2011, became the implementing agency for general education: giving education policy input, coordinating implementation of education programs, overseeing curriculum development, education standards, national examinations, etc.

2012 to 2016

Since 2012, under the new Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP 2013-2015), focus has shifted from increasing 9YBE access and enrollment to improving quality and relevance of schooling as well as increasing access to secondary level schooling with the introduction of the 12 Year Basic Education (12YBE) policy, making schooling fee-free up to upper secondary.

Standards in Education

The following bodies oversee educational standards

Division of Construction and equipment

Sets standards for classroom/school construction

National Examination Council

Sets standards for grades and progression to the next stage of education

Department of planning

Sets and monitors standards on system performance indicators

General Inspectorate of education

Inspects and advises on standards adherence and compliance.

ICT in Education

The Rwandan government has formed a national strategy for information and communications technology (ICT). This is coordinated by the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) which was designed to serve as the national body to support the development and the implementation of the National Information and Communications Infrastructure in the public and private sectors.

The Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) is active in promoting the use of ICT in schools and is coordinating the one Laptop per Child project in the country.

Although there is a shortage of ICT skills and technical support at the present time, ICT education is extending from tertiary institutions to all primary and secondary schools. This training is already paying dividends, with many students now being offered well paid (by local standards) part-time work. Rwanda could attract business through the bilingual French and English skills many locals have.

The Rwanda Education Commons (REC) is a four-year program funded by USAID to promote the effective use of ICTs in education. Since REC opened its office within MINEDUC in January 2009, it has worked to expand teachers’ access to quality resources, to connect educators with each other and to inspire and empower teachers. REC has a record of achieving its goals and a reputation as a practical and effective partner in assisting Rwanda to achieve its ICT in education goals. More than 1,630 teachers have registered for the portal and they are regularly using it.

Some students have been studying through the African Virtual University which is allowing students to learn online while being taught by lecturers from other countries.

In October 2006, the NEPAD e-Africa Commission launched a project to further develop ICT in Rwandan schools. The project will link up schools across Africa, including primary and secondary levels, and is intended to grow; eventually it will incorporate all Rwandan secondary schools.

Two institutions are heavily involved in ICT education – KIST (Kigali Institute of Science and Technology) and KIE (Kigali Institute of Education).

Since 2005, KIE has been involved in an ICT in education initiative as part of the larger EdQual project, funded by the UK Department for International Development DfID and involving four African partner countries. The EdQual initiative in Rwanda has been working with teachers in 12 primary and secondary schools in Rwanda. Through a program of workshops and activities in schools, teachers have been developing their own ICT skills and using ICT to support teaching and learning of science and mathematics. Another small-scale EdQual project study has compared NEPAD e-Schools in Rwanda and Kenya.

Literacy Rate

The country’s literacy rate defined as those aged 15 or over who can read and write, was 71% in 2009, up from 38% in 1978 and 58% in 1991.

Education Issues in Rwanda

The level of education one has is often seen as a form of capital accumulation which helps in countries’ development. In Rwanda, the government implemented policies over the years to ensure there is a high literacy rate among the population. As of 2004-2008, 77% of males and females are literate, which is a relatively high percentage, however, those who continue into secondary schooling stands at a low 31%. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) can be seen as partially successful in getting the young to receive schooling.

The education level, in Rwanda, remains low despite implementation of the policies such as mandatory education for primary school (6 years) and lower secondary schooling (3 years) that is run by state schools. The children are not required to pay school fees for the mandatory schooling. A Rwandan is expected to complete an average of 10.6 years of education. However, the mean number of years that a Rwandan spends on education is 3.3 years, which is lower than the expectation. It is also lower than the average years of schooling in developed countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, which are 10.0 years and 4.5 years respectively. Based on the 2010 Human Development Index (HDI) report, Rwanda is ranked at 152 out of a total of 169 countries under the ‘Low Human Development’ category.

The number of Rwandans admitted into schools has increased between 2001 and 2008, but the facilities and resources have not increased at the same rate. Enrollment in primary school almost doubled over the decade, with an average annual growth rate of 5.4 percent between 1998 and 2009, to reach almost 2.2 million students in 2008. However, enrollment growth slowed in 2007/08 with a total increase of only 40,000 students, compared to an increase of 160,000 students in 2005/06.

Surprisingly, no significant increase is apparent following the implementation of the fee-free primary education policy in 2003/04, implying that factors other than school fees play a role in the decision to send a child to school. In 2008, around 71 primary level pupils are taught in a single classroom and within the secondary school level for Rwandans, around 5 students shared 1 textbook on average. An average primary school teacher has to handle around 62 students as the class size increases at a faster rate as compared to the number of teachers employed. The schools in the more remote rural areas also find it tough to attract teachers.  The constraints are aggravated by the fact that supplementary reading materials were inadequate, particularly for the lower primary school grades.

(i) Textbook distribution is heavily dependent on the availability of funds, which affects the government’s ability to conduct adequate planning, and may not effectively respond to supply and demand

(ii) The evaluation of textbook publishing bids often takes a long time

(iii) Teachers feel that they are insufficiently involved in the textbook selection process

(iv)Text-books may be damaged because of poor distribution and stock management

These factors result in discrepancies in pupil to textbook ratios between schools and within districts. This goes to show that there is still a challenge in terms of access and high-quality textbooks in Rwanda which are expected to be addressed in upcoming plans.

About 40% of the teachers’ population in Rwanda has less than 5 years of teaching experience. The number of teachers who are qualified in the primary school have increased to 99% in 2008, however, the number of teachers who are qualified in the secondary school are only 36% and 33% for lower and upper secondary respectively. This means that Rwanda is not able to produce a highly skilled workforce, especially when considering the large proportion of teachers who are not qualified to teach the secondary school pupils.

Most teachers felt that they have been poorly paid. As a result, only 10% of the total teacher respondents have undergone qualification upgrading to attain higher qualifications for teaching in Rwanda. Most of the secondary school teachers are studying for a higher qualification that is not for teaching. This shows that the incentive for further education is low and there are other jobs that have a higher benefit as compared to teaching in Rwanda. Overall, the lack of quality in the education system, such as the standards of the teachers, lack of facilities and resources makes schooling unattractive.

Primary schools

The language used for teaching in the first three years of primary education is Kinyarwanda. In the fourth through sixth years, this becomes English.

Despite some major achievements in Rwanda’s attempts to achieve universal primary education, it currently has one of the worst repetition rates in the sub-Saharan region.

Secondary schools

The teaching language is English. Secondary schooling is divided in Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary, both lasting 3 years. Lower Secondary, like primary, focuses on acquiring basic knowledge and skills. Together with primary, it constitutes 9YBE – 9 Year Basic Education. At the end of these 3 years, students take ‘’O-Level national examinations’’ which allows them to progress Upper Secondary public schools. Many also continue into the TVET system – Technical and Vocation Education and Training.

Starting from Upper Secondary, students enter specific tracks:

General Secondary Schooling (GSS): academic-style education, often as preparation for higher education, where students specialize either in Sciences, Humanities or Languages.

Technical Secondary Schooling (TSS): technical training leading to A2 level certification. Under EDPRS II development of technical and vocational skills training was identified as crucial to stimulate Rwandan economic growth. Under the auspice of the in 2008 created Workforce Development Authority (WDA) this technical secondary track is in the process of being integrated into the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRC’s), together with Vocational Training Centres (VTC’s) and higher education Colleges of Technology (CoT’s).

Teacher Training Colleges (TTC): Students in this track are trained to become primary school teachers (though some also continue studies in higher education). For 16 TTC’s, curriculum development, assessment and certification is the responsibility of the University of Rwanda’s College of Education (UR-CE).

Higher education

By 2015, there are 44 tertiary education institutions in Rwanda, 12 of them are public and 32 private.[10] The first university in Rwanda, the National University of Rwanda (NUR now part of University of Rwanda), was opened by the government in 1963, with 49 students. By the 1999-2000 academic years, this had risen to 4,550. In 1997-8 Rwanda had a total of 5,571 students enrolled in higher education. Today this stands at 26,796, 39% of them female.

Throughout the higher education system some 100 PhDs are held, the bulk of them at NUR. Areas of research include agriculture, livestock, and the training of farm managers. A system of night school universities has been established to widen access to university. However, there has been some debate over the quality of the courses offered.

Rwanda’s higher education sector has some way to go in developing the internal efficiency. In 2000-1, final year students were graduating with a success rate of between 11 and 50%. Across all years, this success rate is 53 to 76%.

The main higher learning institutions in Rwanda are:

University of Rwanda, which in turn comprises 6 colleges:

University of Rwanda – College of Science and Technology (formerly known as Kigali Institute of Science and Technology)

University of Rwanda – College of Education (formerly known as Kigali Institute of Education)

University of Rwanda – College of Medicine and Health Sciences (formerly known as Kigali Health Institute)

University of Rwanda – College of Business and Economics (formerly known as School of Finance and Banking)

University of Rwanda – College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (formerly known as ISAE Busogo)

University of Rwanda – College of Arts and Social Sciences (formerly known as National University of Rwanda)

Rwanda Teachers College (RTC)

Tumba College of technology (TCT)

Umutara Polytechnic (UP)

Integrated polytechnic Regional Centre Kicukiro Campus (IPRC)

Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD)

Private Higher Learning Institutions

Catholic Institute of Kabgayi (ICK)

Kigali Independent University (ULK)

Institut d’Agriculture, de Technologie et d’Education de Kibungo (INATEK)

Institut Laique adventiste de Kigali (INILAK)

Adventist University of Central and East Africa (AUCA)

Institut d’Enseignement Supérieur de Ruhengeri (INES)

Catholic University of Rwanda (CUR)

KIM University (formerly Kigali Institute of Management)

Byumba Polytechnic (IPB)

Protestant Institute of Arts & Social Sciences (PIASS)

University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB)

Mount Kenya University Kigali Campus (MKU Kigali)

Kigali Health Institute, higher institute of agriculture and animal husbandry (ISAE)

Akilah Institute for Women