How Much Math Does An Econ Major Need To Know Teaching English As a Foreign Language in Rwanda

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Teaching English As a Foreign Language in Rwanda

Rwanda has recently announced that it will initiate an official policy of teaching English in its schools in an attempt to raise the country’s international profile. Its colonial past had made French the dominant foreign language in the African country, with the majority of the population speaking the native Kinyarwanda. However, since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Rwanda and France have accused each other of the massacre of 80,000 Tutsis, worsening relations between the two nations. Although this is not a given reason behind the switch from French to English, many believe it plays a role in the decision to remove French from the national curriculum.

Officially, the Rwandan government explains the decision as a way to strengthen ties between its English-speaking neighbors, such as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It will also help them in terms of economy and business as English is the leading language worldwide in terms of trade and commerce.

Radical reforms will begin shortly, as some teachers have already received basic English language training. However, there is the problem that if the teachers do not know enough English to be able to teach their students, the reform will be useless.

As of January 2009, only 4,700 of Rwanda’s 31,000 primary school teachers had received English language training, and only 600 of 12,000 secondary school teachers had received the same. There is a growing demand for people qualified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to travel to Rwanda and help increase the knowledge of the language among the country’s 43,000 teachers.

People from neighboring countries have moved to Rwanda to help teach English to teachers, and the British Council has already sent TEFL teachers to the country. There are many opportunities for freelance English teachers to start teaching English as a foreign language in the country, with the opportunity to learn new skills and immerse themselves in Rwandan culture.

The African country has already taken some steps to make English the second national language, as entrance to the elite Institute of Science and Technology is in English and is increasingly becoming the language of the national university. More government officials speak English, although many still feel more comfortable using French. The dominant language, however, remains Kinyarwanda, as all Rwandans speak it, facilitating social cohesion after the tumult of the 1990s.

As teachers continue to be trained in the English language, the process of teaching in English instead of Kinyarwanda remains slow. Maths and science will be two of the first subjects to be taught in the new language, with more descriptive classes such as art and history still taught in Kinyarwanda until teachers become more fluent in English. According to early evidence, children seem to be learning the language quickly and the success of the reform will depend on how many teachers are able to demonstrate a proficient understanding of English.

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