The last three months at Umubano Primary School have seen a flurry of activity to maximise the children's learning and development, in line with Rwanda's forthcoming competence-based curriculum. The newly developed 2015 curriculum − which will be implemented from January 2016 − emphasises the importance of learner-centred activities, teaching children the skills to explore, question and understand their lessons and the world around them at a pace that is tailored to each individual – a big shift away from rote learning.
An example of Umubano and APIE putting this ethos into practice can be seen in the case of Nancy, a scholarship student in Nursery Two, who initially struggled to communicate. By using a gentle, personalised approach, Nancy's teachers have helped her to become confident and outgoing. She now smiles and jokes with her friends, looks forward to greeting her teacher in the morning and is happy to contribute in class, telling stories and sharing news with the other children.
Umubano’s ethos is based on belief that quality, well-rounded learning comes from experiences outside the classroom as well as inside, and in this they are ahead of the curve when it comes to the implementation of the new curriculum, which also states the need for diverse learning experiences. Nursery One's recent trip to explore the local area is a great example of how children can benefit from this as they learned new vocabulary and were excited to recount their new learning on their return to school and at home.
The children were able discover plants and animals which can be found in the area; linking with the directive that children should have a well-developed knowledge and understanding of the environment, sustainability and ecological systems. Children were able to see, smell and feel the things they learnt about in class and thus develop a better understanding of the world and their place in it.
Another example of such learning was the much anticipated Skype conversation between Umubano Primary School and Dolphin School, Berkshire. This was a great opportunity for children on both sides of the screen (and the world!) to gain an understanding and awareness of the international community, initiating what we hope will be ongoing and meaningful relationships. The children took turns to ask questions of each other, having prepared these carefully in their own classes after the two teachers had shared a planning session on skype the previous week. They discovered fascinating differences between their lives but also similarities.
Activities such as these support children to develop as members of their immediate society as well as a global society. These conversations will also be helpful when it comes to learning new communication skills and giving the children an opportunity to practise their English. The new curriculum stresses the importance of communication skills and the understanding of other's diverse cultural backgrounds− something which future Skype conversations will only re-enforce.
APIE is excited to see the new curriculum and is ready to support the staff and students of Umubano Primary School to embrace it. Rwanda was ahead of much of the world in achieving almost universal access to primary education by 2015. APIE aims to help ensure that it is also ahead of the game in achieving the Sustainable Development goal of quality education for all.
With thanks to our guest blogger and intern Viv Cohen, November 2015.