Bilingualism in Higher Education: The aftermath of the imposition of the French-English policy in tertiary institutions of Rwanda
Mugabo, Donatus Abel
MetadataShow full item record
This study on the implementation of the French-English policy in the tertiary institutions of Rwanda followed preliminary observation of difficulties surrounding the implementation of the official language policy in higher education after Government’s imposition of the bilingual education policy aimed at improving economic and higher education opportunities across socioeconomic and regional disparities. Since, in spite of the aims, students followed classroom instruction with difficulty, evidently due to a language barrier, the study was designed to establish the repercussions of the policy on instructional and administrative functions in higher institutions of learning. Its objectives were to establish the consequences of the policy on the lecturers’ capacity to deliver subject content, students’ comprehension of subject content, and information communication and dissemination by administrators. Case study design was employed, with Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) studied as the case, and the students, lecturers and administrators being the participants. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected by semi-structured interview, observation in classrooms and offices, focus group discussion and self-administered questionnaire. Qualitative data was analysed interpretively as the study progressed, using logical analysis based on themes in the objectives, and quantitative data was analysed descriptively to obtain frequencies and percentages. Analysis showed that the use of Kinyarwanda was dominant at KIE, with lecturers using it to explain course content for ease of students’ comprehension, due to their own and the students’ lack of proficiency in both English and French. Students were also discovered to need so much support for comprehension of lesson content and to depend heavily on each other to follow lectures. Also, while most administrators spoke both French and English fluently, they preferred to communicate to students and colleagues using Kinyarwanda. Besides, in spite of the bilingual policy, use of English is reinforced while French is neglected, giving the former a higher status than the latter. The instructional and administrative realities illustrate inadequate capacity and or commitment to implement the bilingual policy. The overall policy implementation deficiencies are attributed to an interesting complex language scenario: the majority of students and a minority of lecturers are Francophone whereas the majority of lecturers and a few students are Anglophone although all the students and the majority of lecturers have a functional knowledge of Kinyarwanda and, overall, English, the minority language, is perceived to be superior to French. The study concluded that the policy has strained lecturers’ capacity to deliver subject content and students’ comprehension of it while having little impact on information communication and dissemination. French and English, though apparently accorded equal status in the paper policy, are not actually equal. It recommends that the Ministry of Education in Rwanda offers professional training to teachers in the form of seminars, workshops and conferences in both English and French in truly bilingual implementation practice, provides them with adequate relevant instructional materials and rejuvenates Practical School for Modern Languages (EPLM) with the aim of equipping lecturers with bilingual ability. The use of both French and English should be reinforced by authorities at all levels through motivating lecturers, students and administrators to implement the bilingual policy by rewarding bilingual speakers and introducing language clubs, competitions and awards. The ministry should introduce clearly documented measures to reinforce bilingualism right from primary through secondary school to higher education institutions and facilitate acquisition of all language skills in their complexities in both languages. Language education policy makers should facilitate the implementation of the bilingual policy by lecturers, administrators and students through strengthening the material and functional capacity of the monitoring and supervisory department of the Ministry of Education.