Rwanda Education System

Rwanda System of Education

Rwanda operates on a 6-3-3-4 system: 

  • Primary School – 6 years
  • Junior Secondary School (Ordinary level) – 3 years
  • Senior Secondary School (Advanced level) – 3 years
  • University Bachelor’s degree – 4 years

Language: There are three official languages of instruction throughout the Rwandan educational system: Kinyarwanda in primary school  P1-P3  and English from P4 through University. French is taught as an elective or a supplemental subject in public primary and secondary schools.
Some private primary and high schools have both Francophone and Anglophone systems which use French or English respectively as languages of instruction. Students in these schools take either language as an elective or a supplementary subject

Junior Secondary School: Each year 28,000 Rwandan students take the national secondary Education Ordinary Level test at the end of Junior Secondary School Form 3 (ninth grade) in nine subjects. If failed, a student can retake the third year or decide to join a private school.

Senior Secondary School: Admission to Senior Secondary School is competitive: fewer than 13,000 students can be admitted into the 734 secondary schools.  The vast majority of Rwandan students attend public boarding schools, many of which are highly competitive; there are also private secondary schools in the country. Students must take a national Secondary Education Advance Level exam to graduate. Fewer than 1000 independent students take a different national exam to receive a high school diploma each year.

In Secondary schools advanced level, students will focus on subject combinations as follows:

Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics (PCM), Physics-Chemistry-Biology (PCB), Math-Chemistry-Biology (MCB), Math-Physics-Geography (MPG), Math-Economics-Geography (MEG), History-Economics-Geography (HEG), English-French-Kinyarwanda (EFK), English-Kiswahili-Kinyarwanda (EKK), Maths-Physics-Computer Science (MPC), History-Economics-Literature (HEL), Maths-Computer Science-Economics (MCE), Biology-Chemistry-Geography(MCG), Physics-Economics-Math (PEM), History-Geography-Literature(HGL) and Literature-Economics-Geography (LEG)

In A-Level, students still take more courses (English for example) in addition to the main courses of their combination but these courses will not be examined in the national secondary school leaving exam.

The secondary school transcript contains a letter or percentage grade for each subject for each of three terms, for the three years of senior secondary school (equivalent to the tenth through twelfth grades).  Students’ Term Reports (Bulletins) contain rank in class for each subject as well as grades for class work and end of term exams.  The grading system is difficult: 80-100% is usually an A, a grade rarely awarded. Transcripts with all A’s are unlikely to be genuine.

At the end of Senior Secondary School (twelfth grade), all students take the final national exam in each of   3 subjects of the combinations plus Entrepreneurship and general paper.  These exams are given nationwide in November each year, but the results are not available until the following March.  Grading is exceptionally tough: fewer than 3% of grades are A’s, and 30% of students fail any given exam.

The grading system is shown on the reverse of the certificate. All courses are graded from A (which means maximum) through F (which means failure) except the general paper which is graded with an S. Also, the S will stand for a subsidiary pass for other subjects.

The letter grades have point values as follows: A (6), B (5), C (4), D (3), E (2), F (0), S (1). To make a weighted aggregate, each grade is multiplied by three except the general paper which always has a weight of 1. Currently, the maximum aggregate is 73 (calculated as follows: 18 for each of three main subjects, 18 for entrepreneurship and 1 for general paper)

For example, a student who takes Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics (PCM) combination and has an A in Math, a B in Chemistry, a C in Physics, a D in Entrepreneurship and an S in general paper, will have an aggregate of 55 (which is calculated as follows: 6*3+5*3+4*3+3*3+1*1)

In order to receive a high school leaving certificate, a student must achieve at least three subsidiary level passes. However, admission to most higher education programs in Rwanda requires passes in at least two subjects with a minimum grade of “C”.

Rwandan grading system can be compared with the U.S system as follows:
A = US A; B = US B+; C = US B; D = US C+; E = US C; F = US F; Subsidiary = P.

Insufficient and Unclassified students are not issued certificates diploma. The U.S. universities should not admit Rwandan students who have not attained a level Cs in the main subjects.  Failed students can retake exams as independents to get the minimum or higher required grade. Colleges should require a photocopy of the Diploma or Certificate and the result slip for the end of Secondary Education Advanced Level exam “A2” or “D6” bearing two signatures and stamp from the Rwanda Education Board, as well as the transcripts.

Higher Education: Rwanda’s tertiary institutions enroll over 44,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, certificate and diploma programs in a full range of academic and professional fields.

Public Universities in Rwanda recently merged to form the University of Rwanda (UR) and former universities became colleges of the University of Rwanda:

  • College of Arts and Humanities (Former National University of Rwanda (NUR) in Butare)
  • College of Business and Economics (Former School of Finance and Banking, SFB in Kigali)
  • College of Science and Technology ( Former Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, KIST)
  • College of Education (Former Kigali Institute of Education, KIE)
  • College of Medicine and Health Sciences ( Former Kigali Heath Institute, KHI)
  • College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine ( Former Higher Institute of Agriculture and Livestock, ISAE in Musanze )

Currently, every college manages several departments and faculties scattered in other colleges where they used to be and this will continue for a transition period of two years.  At the end of the transition, all programs will move to their related colleges.

Nine public polytechnics offer three-year Higher National Diplomas in Education, Technology, Human Health, Animal Health and Nursing (Advanced Diploma). The Advance Diploma is not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree, but undergraduate transfer credit can be awarded, as is also the case for Teacher Training Colleges and other tertiary non-degree programs.  Several private institutions are also accredited by the High Council of Education Board (HCEB) to award Bachelor’s degrees.  Private institution enrollment totals more than 13,000, a number growing due to increasing numbers of part time students. A Bachelor’s degree is considered the basic academic level to be eligible for the Rwandan professional job market.

Rwandan university admission is highly competitive, especially in fields such as medicine, engineering, law, and pharmacy.  The quality of education is considered reasonably high, despite lacking material resources.  In an effort to attract international enrollment, all Rwandan universities operate on a modular, semester system. Most international students are from neighboring countries where French is dominant and want to adhere to a bilingual system.

Rwandans in the United States:  323 Rwandans are enrolled in 118 U.S. institutions in 37 states.  Each year, newly enrolling Rwandan students are awarded $1.2 million in financial assistance for study in the United States. Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa with direct admission agreement with La Roche College and Oklahoma Christian University.
In the University of Arkansas, undergraduate students from Rwanda automatically receive a non-resident tuition award, this means that their tuition is calculated on resident rates.

Testing: Rwanda has moved to  internet-based  TOEFL and tests can be done twice a month. GRE is still paper based and is offered three times a year (October, November and February) The SAT is offered 6 times a year (October, November and December, January, May and June).  GMAT is not offered in Rwanda since it is a computer-based.

Students who want more tests which are not available in Rwanda or on different dates, can use the neighboring town of Kampala which have several advanced centers.
Although we want students to demonstrate their commitment and competitiveness, we advocate the use of testing only as warranted, and discourage institutions from requiring the TOEFL of students who can adequately demonstrate their English proficiency by other means.

Educational Advising:  The Educational Advising Center in Kigali sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy, serve over 10,000 students per year in a wide range of programs designed to strengthen students’ applications and their readiness for U.S. higher education.  We are eager to work with you to make it possible for more Rwandan students to enroll in your institution. Please contact the Educational Advisor (or the Information Resource Centre) and refer your Rwandan applicants to us for any assistance that we can provide.

Kigali Education Advisor/Information Resource Centre
Email:  Phone: 250-252 596 628

We would appreciate two copies each of your catalogue, view book, DVD or CD-ROM, mailed to:

Educational Advisor – PAS
Department of State
2210 Kigali Place
Washington, DC 20521-2210

We welcome visits, recruiting or otherwise, and can readily assemble an audience for your presentations.  Come and visit, and let us treat you to Rwandan hospitality!