English and Swahili: Studied but not done in National Test

In Burundi, pupils from primary school study the English and Kiswahili languages added to Kirundi and French since 2005-2006 School Year. But up to now, the two new languages are not included in National Test of the primary school final year-by Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

6th year primary school doing a nationl test.©Iwacu

6th year primary school pupils doing a nationl test.©Iwacu

Burundi has recently adopted English and Kiswahili courses in primary school curricula in order to prepare Burundian youth into the regional integration. The main objective is to have harmonized curricula and active competition in EAC. Those two languages have been added to Kirundi and French languages, but two National Tests have already been done without including either English or Swahili. The reasons are not well known but some people think that the teaching methodology isn’t yet appropriate.

According to Mrs. Juliette Rwamiye, a teacher at Ngagara II Primary School, in 6th Year, English and Kiswahili courses can’t be considered in the National Test as they are only taught orally and teachers have been prohibited to teach other linguistic skills.“English and Kiswahili courses are not part of the National Test because this one is written. Pupils are not able to write anything in those languages.” says Rwamiye.

For her, they should only be considered in the National Test, if the program and teaching methodology changed. “Perhaps, in the following years, this will be feasible after having changed the program,” she hopes.
The view is shared by Bénitha Muhoza, a pupil at Muramvya II Primary School, who has just done the 2012-2013 school year National Test. “I would like to do even English and Swahili in National Test because I enjoy studying them. I don’t know why they are not included,” she complains.

She adds that she masters Kirundi and French more than English and Kiswahili because she doesn’t know to read and write those latter.
As far as Eulalie Nibizi, Burundi Trade-Union of Teachers’ Chairwoman (STEB) is concerned, if a teaching policy is implemented, it must go with an evaluation policy.“Burundi Government has introduced the teaching of the English and Kiswahili languages without promoting their essential learning tools which would facilitate children’s good learning and acquisition. They should have evaluated pupils and teachers’ performance by introducing the two courses in the National Test” she states.

“If 1st and 2nd years’ pupils are taught orally, since 3rd year, they can learn to read and write without any problem. So, pupils of 6th year must be able to write and read English at this level,” she explains.
She concludes that it is very important to allow Burundian pupils to communicate in English and Swahili effectively, because knowing a language implies mastering the four linguistic aptitudes namely speaking, listening, writing and reading. We tried to get an interview from the Minister of Education, to give us more details why English and Kiswahili courses are not considered in National Test, but in vain. The permanent secretary says that he can’t express himself about it unless he is authorized.