By: Edwin Ashimwe
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.
It is in this light that African countries are convinced that any economic development could be achieved by promoting quality and effective teaching of sciences and mathematics.
However, as the region positions itself to become an emerging economy, mathematics and science (STEM discipline) professionals remain a critical issue on the labor market.
As a result, 4 years ago the University of Rwanda- College of Education (UR-CE) submitted a project for the establishment of the African Centre of Excellence for Innovative Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS).
This was intended to mainly address a number of common challenges including the establishment of a significant curriculum mismatch between outcomes and real-world experiences, shortage of well-qualified mathematics and science educators, low level of integration of new technologies in teaching and learning, gender imbalance in both staff and students, poor research outcomes to inform policy, among others.
Needless to mention that, the Centre also aims at strengthening human capacity to deliver research-based quality teaching and learning of mathematics and science.
According to Prof. Lakhan Lal Yadav, the Director of the African Centre of Excellence for Innovative Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS), the project envisions offering quality postgraduate science and mathematics education programs.
“This will, therefore, enable us to produce graduates at international standards and local relevance.” The Director said.
2-year journey status update
The Centre runs three activities namely bringing innovation into teaching and learning, research and training, and community engagement.
Prof. Yadav also pointed out that “In all these, the Centre considers the integration of ICT and inclusiveness. Which will have a multiplier effect both in Rwanda and in the region.”
Adding that for the past two years, the institution has embarked on a journey that embraces human capacity for an innovative and knowledge-based economy.
The Director also highlighted that most of the project results have good trends, as indicated by the overall target achievements. Besides, he added, challenges encountered during the implementation of project include the late starting of the planned activities. “However, the Centre did a catch-up of all activities, and now the overall trend is a good indicator to show that ACEITLMS results achievement is satisfactory and the project will be successful.” Prof. Yadav noted.
He also said that during the last financial year, about USD25,000 of income was generated by the Centre. “Income generation is low and for the future sustainability of the Centre, we need to do more. To address this challenge, the Centre has developed a strategy for sustainable development.” For example, he said, the Centre has started a self-funded MEd program in Kigali to raise income and plans in order to initiate short courses.
“Centre also plans to increase the enrollment of self-sponsored students in PhD programs and to construct Guest House-cum-PG Hostel during this year, the Centre will continue to submit proposals for potential funds.”
Prof. Yadav pointed out that the Centre is participating in Quality Basic Education (QBE) project of the Ministry of Education, funded by the World Bank, which is expected to attract about 400,000USD to the Centre.
“So, we are moving in the right direction for the sustainability of the Centre.” Prof. Yadav reiterated.
He also emphasized, “We have strong evidence showing that results-based approach which focuses on achieving certain agreed targets and benchmarks, can yield to better outcomes when a Centre works as a team in collaboration with regional and international partners.”
Achievements from the implementation
For the past two and a half years of its implementation, about 65% of overall project targets have already been achieved. The close partnership made with other institutions and different organizations at both national and international levels served a lot as far as achieving excellence in teaching and learning, research and training and exchange programs are concerned, the Director of the Centre said. He also added that “The Centre has benefited a lot from the support from regional institutions in collaborative research where regional researchers in collaboration with ACEITLMS researchers co-authored peer-reviewed papers together leading to publications in internationally recognized journals.”
In addition to this, through collaboration, 3 multi-organizational joint projects were successfully selected. The regional and international collaboration with partners made it easier for the supervision of postgraduate students as co-supervisors come from those institutions and thus co-authoring papers as well. Prof. Yadav narrates.
With over 150 students with 30% of them being international, the Centre has equipped three science laboratories (Biology, Chemistry and Physics Labs) and one ICT Lab. He also emphasized that “We have active collaboration with 14 national, regional and international institutions/organizations.”
“The best mathematics and science educators from UR and our partnering institutions train our postgraduate students not only in theory but also in practical, innovative methods of teaching, research methods and academic writing. Our students participate in student exchange programs in the region as well as outside Africa, in conferences as well as community outreach programs.” the Director explained.
On the other hand, he adds, “Seminars and workshops are organized for academic staff and Postgraduate (PG) students to build their knowledge in research whereby speakers are from UR, international, regional academic institutions and UR-CE community. We provide an opportunity to our PhD students for teaching in introductory undergraduate classes of UR-CE. So, at the Centre, we emphasize the holistic development of students. About 30 papers have already been published by the Centre in peer-reviewed journals, among them 15 are published by our PhD students.” To date, according to the statistics, the Centre facilitates 256 direct beneficiaries (students, participants in short-courses and exchange programs only) from the project.
The Centre has developed 8 PhD, 4 Masters and one CPD programs. 161 national and regional university and school mathematics and science teachers have been trained through two short course training on Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in Innovative Teaching Mathematics and Science. “The main purpose of this program is to enrich innovative teaching and research. Through outstanding postgraduate training, mathematics and science education research of societal needs, different capacity building program and outreach activities, the Centre aims to contribute for the improvement of quality of mathematics and science education in Rwanda and the region,” concluded the Director.