Lack of school ranking a worry for Rwanda's parents

Monday March 13 2017

Students of P6 assemble before sitting for the

Students of P6 assemble before sitting for the national examination. Rwanda's Ministry of Education stopped ranking of schools three years ago. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Johnson Kanamugire

The absence of a centralised ranking system for schools has left parents groping in the dark as they seek to make informed choices about which schools to take their children to amid growing uncertainty over the quality of education.

The Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) stopped annual ranking of schools’ performance three years ago citing the unhealthy competition the system generated because it was based on national exam scores.

However, the Ministry’s promise to put in place a “proper” alternative ranking system is yet to materialise.

According to educationists, this has created a gap in the education system while at the same time denying parents guidance about where to enrol their children.

“All choices are now based on speculation because it is difficult to know the best schools in a particular location. Parents have mostly been attracted to well-equipped schools since there is no ranking and you know equipment cannot be a key measure,” said Jean Paul Sibo, a teacher in Musanze.

For the fourth successive year, the Ministry of Education recently released exam results for S6, P6 and S3 consecutively without giving any details about how schools performed, except for names and results of a few top scorers.

Monopoly of information

This makes it difficult for parents and other stakeholders interested in the education system to access information on best and worst performing schools.

The ministry and school managers have the monopoly over such information. Critics argue that while, on the one hand, this comforts managers of poorly-performing schools who would face pressure from the public, but it denies top-performing schools’ teachers the credit they deserve.

A similar concern was raised at the recently-concluded civic training for teachers with Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi calling for regular ranking of best schools and teachers as a way of promoting a culture of competition.

“Let competition be our culture. The names of schools, teachers and students who perform well should be made public and we recognise them,” PM Murekezi said.

A section of educationists say the absence of a ranking system covers up rampant failures of some schools as well as gaps in the entire education system in the country since this was the only measure that exposed loopholes, thereby sparking action.

Some private schools are exploiting the existing ranking vacuum to attract parents seeking the best schools for their children by advertising their infrastructure and equipment. Their claims to be the best go unchallenged and there is no scrutiny by the education regulator.

New ranking parameters

Although Ministry of Education officials labelled the previous ranking system as not being reflective of the performance of the education system, they admitted that the lack of a replacement led to confusion.

Janvier Gasana, the Rwanda Education Board Director-General told Rwanda Today that new ranking parameters for schools were under development and will capture not only scores in national exams but also leadership, hygiene and discipline among other categories.

“We hope that we shall be able to publish rankings on an annual basis starting this academic year when we will be announcing results. We want to ensure that parents are well informed about which school is doing well in which aspect before they can make a choice,” Mr Gasana said.

According to the education regulator the new school ranking could take into consideration disparities in terms of resources, infrastructures, geographical locations, among other categories.

Analysts say this could put government under pressure to equip all school equally if students are to be ranked competitively.