Rwanda: Updates on general secondary examinations and information resources

August 27, 2013
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation

Rwandan flagAccording to statistics compiled by EducationUSA, there were close to 400 F-1 visas issued to Rwandan students for study in the United States for the academic year 2011-12, and a record number of well over 500 Rwandan students were enrolled at US institutions on student visas.

Based on the increase in student numbers from Rwanda, US institutions are seeing an increasing number of academic credentials from Rwanda. The EducationUSA Web site of the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, includes very useful information about the education system of Rwanda, but some important changes have taken place in Rwandan education since that information was compiled.


Overview of Educational Structure

Since 1991 Rwanda has had a 12-year primary/secondary school structure (6 + 3 + 3). The higher education sector offers a 3-year bachelor’s degree, a 4-year bachelor honors degree, longer first-level degree programs for professional fields (such as medicine), and graduate programs at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Languages of Instruction in Primary and Secondary Education

Language is a significant cultural, economic and political issue in Rwanda, and it has had a major impact on education since 1994. Most of the population—90 percent—only speaks Kinyarwanda. English, which is spoken by 4% of the population, was declared an official language in 1994, in line with the Anglophone government’s goal to develop Rwanda as a business center, IT hub and tourist destination, and develop relationships to the international community, especially with immediate English-speaking neighbors.

From 1996 to 2008, the first three years of primary school were taught in Kinyarwanda, with the remaining years taught in either French or English. In 2008, English became the official language of instruction at all levels. In 2011, Kinyarwanda was reinstated as the language of instruction in the first three primary years.

During this transition from French to English as the language of instruction, Rwandan education appears to be dealing with many challenges, including a shortage of qualified English-speaking teachers and teaching materials in English. In terms of admission to US institutions for undergraduate and graduate study, AACRAO IES recommends that students from Rwanda be expected to demonstrate proficiency in English according to the institutional admissions policies for applicants coming from multi-lingual countries where English is not the native language.


Updates on Advanced General Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations

Until January 2011 the Rwandan National Examination Council (RNEC) administered the national examinations given in the final year of primary school, lower secondary school, and upper secondary school, including examinations for secondary technical/professional and vocational education. In January 2011 the Rwanda Education Board (REB) was established, an umbrella organization for six newly-created education departments that were reorganized from five existing education bodies. The REB took over the responsibility for the national school examinations.

The REB issued the first Advanced General Certificate of Secondary Education (AGCSE) examination certificates for the examinations of 2011. The AGCSE examination system is similar in concept and structure to British Advanced Level examinations (“A-levels”). Students take three subject examinations and a General Paper.

The grading system is shown on the reverse of the certificate. The subject examinations are graded according to level: letter grades A through E for “Advanced” level examinations, required for admission to higher education, and S for “Subsidiary” level results, indicating a pass at a level lower than “Advanced”, or a pass in the General Paper, which is not a subject-based examination.

The Advanced level subject examinations are weighted with a co-efficient of 3 each. The General Paper is graded only with an S, and has a co-efficient weighting of 1. The letter grades have point values as follows: A (6), B (5), C (4), D (3), E (2), F (0), S (1). The overall result is a “weighted aggregate” point total.

In order to receive the Certificate, students must achieve at least three Subsidiary level passes. However, admission to most higher education programs in Rwanda requires Advanced level passes in at least two subjects with a minimum grade of “C”.

AACRAO IES suggests the following US-comparability for AGCSE grades:

A = US A; B = US B+; C = US B; D = US C+; E = US C; F = US F; Subsidiary = P.

AACRAO IES recommends that the AGCSE be considered comparable to a high school diploma in the United States. Students who received the certificate based on the minimum pass standard might be considered for admission to non-selective postsecondary education in the United States, while selective higher education institutions may wish to require a profile in line with what is required for admission to higher education in Rwanda, at least two Advanced level passes with a grade of at least “C” in each.

International School of Kigali

The International School of Rwanda (ISK-R) follows an international curriculum based on AERO (American Education Reaches Out) and is an international school recognized by the Office of Overseas Schools. It follows the US system of elementary and secondary school and awards a High School Diploma. The ISK-R is a member of the African International School Association, as well as a member of the Council of International Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). ISK-R is a candidate for NEASC accreditation, hosting its first visit in April 2013.

Updated Resources on Rwandan Education

Rwandan Governmental Bodies:

Ministry of Education

Rwanda Education Board (NEB)

Workforce Development Authority (WDA), vocational/technical education authority

National Council for Higher Education (NCHE)

NCHE Link to Accredited Higher Learning Institution lists
Rwandan National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education Institutions

Other Resources:

Rwanda ISCED Mapping, 2007 and 2008

Never Again: Educational Reconstruction in Rwanda, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, 2003

Rwanda to Switch from French to English in Schools, The Guardian, October 13, 2008

Rwanda Changes School Language Again, Seeks to Preserve Culture, "Increase Brainpower", Global Press Institute, March 24, 2011


By: AACRAO Connect



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