Competence-Based English Language Teaching in Rwanda: Opportunities, Challenges and possible solutions
Starting from the 2016 school year, Rwanda embarked on the implementation of a competence-based curriculum, shifting the focus from what learners know to what they can do in performing tasks. This new curriculum was introduced in order to enable Rwandan school leavers and graduates to use what they learn to solve practical problems of life or, in other words, to apply what they have learnt in real life situations. Such ability is referred to as competence, hence the term competence-based. With specific reference to language teaching, competency-based teaching is based on a functional perspective, focusing not on what students know about the language but on what they can do with it: the ability to communicate competently. This paper reflects on the opportunities, challenges and possible solutions regarding the implementation of a competence-based approach to teaching English in the Rwandan context. On the one hand, the unprecedented need for English, its international and official status, its use as the only medium of instruction from Grade 4 onwards, its association with numerous advantages and the positive attitudes towards this language among Rwandans are some of the opportunities for the adoption of CBLT for English. On the other hand, the limited use of English in daily life, the lack of competent teachers of English and lack of competence-based teaching aids and materials which reflect the Rwandan context are some of the challenges which CBLT is likely to face. This calls for measures to address these, including adequate training for teachers of English, the development of teaching/learning materials and approaches which reflect, and are appropriate to, the Rwandan context and clear language policies in different institutions to regulate how the different languages should be managed and used.