Read below to learn about the education system in Rwanda and the experiences your sponsored student may have during their academic journey!
The academic year in Rwanda coincides with the calendar year. It is organized into three terms with breaks in between.
Most universities begin their academic year in September.
Language of Instruction
Children are first instructed in Kinyarwanda at school and then switch to English in Primary 4. For most sponsored students, English is not spoken in their homes and is often the third language they’ve learned.
Secondary school in Rwanda is broken into two levels. Ordinary Level (O-Level) includes classes Senior 1-Senior 3, and Advanced Level (A-Level) includes classes Senior 4-Senior 6. O-Level is roughly equivalent to middle school, and A-Level is similar to high school. Students take national exams at the end of Senior 3 and Senior 6.
Students must pass a series of major national exams in order to progress from O-Level to A-Level at the end of Senior 3, and then pass an additional set of exams to graduate from Senior 6. Students don’t find out their final A-Level exam scores for several months after graduation.
After completing Senior 6, sponsored students have a “gap year” as they wait several months to learn their national exam results. From late January through August, these students attend our Dream Leadership Academy (DLEAD), where they receive weekly training in leadership, entrepreneurship, discipleship, biblical literacy, resume writing, and communication skills. This training helps prepare them for life after secondary school.
Based on national exam results, students may qualify for either a university or post-secondary vocational program. University programs in Rwanda typically last 3-4 years depending on the school and degree; programs in the science disciplines (such as medicine, pharmacy and engineering) generally take longer to complete. Vocational programs typically last 1-2 years and students graduate with a diploma or certificate in a specific field such as business management, construction, food production, or information and communication technology.
The grading system in Rwanda is different than in the U.S. Students are assessed in each class and then given one grade percentage that averages their performance across all subjects. Average performance is indicated by a score of 50%, while good performance is indicated by scores above 60%. Students are also ranked in comparison to others within their cohort or class. They may elect to share their percent average or class rank in letters to their sponsors.
Students must perform well academically to advance to the next grade level at the end of each year. It is common for students to repeat a grade level, especially during their primary school years or when they move to a different school.
We have a co-sponsorship model for students in Senior 4 through the Dream Leadership Academy due to the higher costs of secondary education. To learn more about this model, visit www.africanewlife.org/secondary.