The African Union (AU) envisions science, technology and innovation as one of the major drivers in achieving its vision of becoming a prosperous continent by 2063. In line with this, East African Community (EAC) member states that include Rwanda are convinced that any economic development could be achieved by promoting quality and effective teaching of sciences ,mathematics including ICT. It is commonly believed that effective teaching and learning of mathematics and sciences is the basic foundation in building human capacity for an innovative and knowledge-based economy. As Africa tries to position itself as an emerging economy, effective teaching of mathematics and science will play a critical role in the much needed technology for societal economic development.
However, like in many other developing countries across the Africa continent, Rwanda has limited capacity in all sectors including education that has continued to be a big challenge in achieving national economic targets. It is observed that the current teaching is dominated by traditional methods that do not promote scientific literacy and positive attitudes towards science and mathematics. In addition, there is lack of sufficient integration of ICT in teaching and learning. Consequently, students emerge from learning institutions with serious gaps in competencies and skills required to address both individual and societal needs as far as economic development is concerned. Major challenges include:
- a significant curriculum disconnect between outcomes and real world experiences,
- poor research outcomes to inform policy,
- shortage of professional science and mathematics educators in higher learning institutions,
- non-existence of systematic in-service training programme,
- low level of integration of new technologies in teaching and learning,
- insufficient number of students at postgraduate level, and
- gender imbalance in both staff and students.
To address the above challenges, the University of Rwanda-College of Education (UR-CE) has proposed to the World Bank (WB) the creation of an African Centre of Excellence for Innovative Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS)]. The centre aims at strengthening human capacity to deliver research-based quality teaching and learning of mathematics and science. Specifically it will offer postgraduate educational reform program that will produce graduates at international standards and local relevance. The centre’s activities will expand beyond Rwanda in partnership with other institutions across the region and worldwide. It will be governed by a steering committee that will be the supreme authority of the project in decision making and will meet twice a year.
The Centre is in line with the University of Rwanda Strategic Plan. In particular, it will address the following five goals: Quality teaching and learning; Research-led University; Responsible community engagement and networking; Desirable institution for outstanding staff and Institution of choice for students.
The ACEITLMS is also in line with the national Vision 2020, the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2, i.e. EDPRS 2, Rwanda Higher Education Policy 2008 and Education Sector Strategic Plan 2013/2014-2017/2018. The centre also fits well with the regional plan. Within the East African Community (EAC), there is a concerted effort to harmonize the region’s education system with the aim to equip students with skills that will enable them to meet the region’s socio-economic needs.
By the end of the ACEITLMS project period, the following outputs are expected:
- Four accredited curricula for ACEITLMS developed, implemented and reviewed locally and across the region. Five Postdoctoral fellows recruited, 32 PhDs and 80 MEd Maths/Science enrolled of which 30% will be from regional partner institutions. To ensure gender inclusivity, (35%) of all students will be females. One hundred twenty university and schoolteachers will be trained as ToTs to serve in training centres across the region.
- Three well equipped science laboratories, one (1) ICT Lab, about 500 books and subscription of about 20 e-journals for Library and one video-conference.
- Three capacity building trainings/workshops on innovative methods for teaching mathematics and science including use of ICT organised. Four international/regional research conferences and three regional workshops organized. At least 40 faculty staff and students will be supported to participate in regional/international conferences. Five collaborative research projects on innovative methods in mathematics and science education supported and accomplished. Five MoUs signed and operationalized for collaboration.
- Thirty-five research papers published in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings.
Methodology and target outputs.
The centre will run three activities namely bringing innovation into teaching and learning, research and training, and community engagement. In all these, the centre will consider integration of ICT and inclusiveness. This will have a multiplier effect both in Rwanda and in the region.
For teaching and learning, ACEITLMS consortium will design and develop outstanding PhD and MEd courses in mathematics and science education for UR-CE and other regional partner Universities. The design and development of curricula will target the delivery of innovative pedagogical approaches that explicitly address the competency gap among graduates.
Concerning research and trainings, the centre will conduct and support research aiming at addressing societal needs. It will deliver indispensable training and support in building capacity of educators in the region to conduct relevant and quality research through Masters, PhD and Post-Doctoral fellowship projects. The centre will also run short-term training programs for university and secondary school teachers in the region. This training of trainers (TOT) activity of the centre will focus on curriculum development of mathematics, science and use of ICT.
In serving the community, the Centre will organize science and mathematics outreach programs targeting all educational levels across the region. These outreach activities will be done through public presentations, seminars, road shows and science demonstrations using “Mobile Labs.”
At regional level researchers of ACEITLMS will collaborate with their counterparts from identified regional academic partners through joint research projects. This will include co- supervision of Postgraduate research projects, co-authoring papers, presenting papers in conferences, publications as well as students and staff exchange.
Regional partners include Kenyatta University (KU), Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), State University of Zanzibar (SUZ), Aga Khan University(AKU), Makerere University (MU) and, University of Dar-es Salaam (UDM), etc.
International partners of the centre are among others, the University of Bristol (UB), the University of Copenhagen (UC), and the University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN).