Science education reform in a post-colonial developing country in the aftermath of a crisis : the case of Rwanda
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The research reported in this thesis is an in-depth study of science education reform in a transitional society. The society in transition is Rwanda - one of the world's poorest countries - a tiny central African nation adversely affected by major social, political, economic, and ethnic upheaval. Rwanda is faced with the challenge of ensuring rehabilitation after the genocide of 1994 and has adopted the following national goals: implementation of a durable educational policy, eradication of illiteracy, national capacity building in science and technology and reinforcing the teaching of mathematics and sciences.The objective of this research is to describe, discuss and analyse information on the status of science education in Rwanda, from the perspective of primary and secondary science teachers, students, education personnel and my personal in-field observations and analysis. This research analyses the constraints in the implementation of educational policies and a relevant science education in a climate of social, political, cultural, ethnic and economic uncertainty.The research used a case study methodology and utilised quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how teachers' and students' knowledge, perceptions and experiences impact on the school learning environment. The study made use of a questionnaire that was administered to teachers and students in Rwanda. English and French versions of a modified School Level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ) and a modified Teacher Beliefs Instrument (STEBI) were administered to teachers. Two scales derived from the Test of Science Related Attitudes (TOSRA) were adapted for use in Rwandan classes.The qualitative component of the research made use of interviews, classroom observations, personal reflexivity, historical and curriculum document analysis and vignettes.To enable an interpretation of the quantitative data from questionnaires in a meaningful manner, the socio-cultural, gender and ethnic perspectives of policy makers, teachers and students were examined through interviews and classroom observations of science lessons. My personal experiences and reflections also were used to understand science education reform in Rwanda.The qualitative and quantitative findings of the research identified factors that influence the science education reform process and make meaningful interpretations of background, culture and the situation in Rwanda. Document analysis indicated that there is a need for greater access to secondary education. Interviews and science lesson observations indicated that it is necessary to develop a curriculum that is contextually relevant and to redefine science teacher training programmes. The findings of the research identified the constraints, dilemmas and tensions in the implementation of the educational reform process as young and inexperienced teachers, most of whom do not have university degrees and have difficulties in implementing the curriculum effectively. Further constraints included work pressures due to the examination system, an acute, as well as a lack of material resources and finances required to reconstruct and improve educational institutions.The research investigates the impact of the transition on science education in Rwanda. The research designed to examine the science education reform process in the transitional Rwandan society and economy studied the complex cultural, historical and educational factors that influence science education.Using multiple research methods, this study is an analysis of my understanding of the changes that have taken place in science education, the impediments to these changes and the identification of aspects that may enhance the prospect for future science education reform, especially in the areas of the science curriculum reform, assessment procedures and teacher professional development.
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