Feature: Improving quality education for children through reform of teaching and learning materials
By Arpana Pandey
KIGALI, Rwanda February 2013 - At Kanyinya, a Nine-year Basic Education school in Nyarugenge District, children are seated in a circle around the teacher. Their eyes light up as she reads from a book full of tales of animals and friendship. The children eagerly flip through the book’s pages, stopping at each page to ask questions. Behind the teacher, the bookshelves are stacked with copies of textbooks, story books, atlases and dictionaries.
“I love reading books in Kinyarwanda. I especially enjoy sitting in the reading room at school because it is peaceful and quiet,” says 13-year-old Gisele Dushimana, with a grin. Twelve-year-old Bernard says he enjoys reading because his mind is able to travel to far away and interesting places.
Six years ago, these bookshelves would have been empty, gathering dust. Today, however, they are brimming with books thanks to the Government of Rwanda’s Learning and Teaching Materials reform. This resulted in a surge in the number of books and visual aids in schools across the country.
In 2007-2008, the Ministry of Education conducted a study to identify why books were not reaching schools and children. The study revealed a host of problems that included long delays in evaluating textbook bids, shortages in the availability of textbooks, teachers’ guides and reading materials, particularly in Kinyarwanda, and most importantly, lack of information about what exactly is needed in the classroom. Recognizing the need for learning materials that reflected the national curriculum, and a transparent management system, the Government of Rwanda enacted the Learning and Teaching Materials Reform (LTM), supported by UNICEF and other partners.
Enabling reform across the country
In order to make this reform a continued success, the Government of Rwanda with UNICEF support, took a number of measures. Procurement was decentralised at the school level and decision-making power handed over to individual schools regarding which books to order. The process to select appropriate books at each grade and for each subject was based on value for money and quality of books. It also placed a greater emphasis on the provision of supplementary reading materials to assist literacy and learning. In addition, UNICEF supported the establishment of a national Learning and Teaching Materials (LTM) database, which compiles information on textbooks, teachers’ guides, supplementary materials and teaching aids. Other schemes and projects for supply of books and materials for Early Childhood Education, such as games and toys, have also been integrated into the LTM database.
The impact of the LTM reform can be seen in primary and secondary schools across the country. It has promoted competition among publishers, lowering book costs for schools and provided them with a greater choice in selecting relevant books. The books reach the schools directly from publishers and traders.
Longin Ntirenganya, the Head of Studies at Kanyinya school, said, “The delivery of text books has greatly improved. Whereas previously our requests would go unheard, now we can expect requested books to arrive within three months.” He has also noticed an improvement in the level of reading of children, especially last year with the addition of the reading room. “The children have a place to go and read. This has helped promote reading.”
The library at Kanyinya is now full of textbooks and supplementary reading materials, and the school is set to receive more. The reform has given students access to a variety of books and has enabled students like Gisele Dushimana, to develop a passion for reading.