STELIR_Teacher trainer monitoring groupwork
STELIR_Teacher trainer monitoring groupwork ©

British Council

Background: The Secondary Teachers English Language Improvement Rwanda (STELIR) project is delivered in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation and implemented by the British Council in partnership with Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB). STELIR aims to improve the English language proficiency of Lower Secondary Teachers in the Rwandan state education system to at least intermediate level, working with 6,000 in-service teachers across 14 districts, plus 1,000 Lower Secondary Pre-Service teachers in training at the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE), with the ultimate goal of improving learning opportunities for lower secondary pupils. 

STELIR aims to achieve a sustainable change in the Rwandan education system by adapting training materials for the Rwanda Education Board (REB) for face-to-face intensive and online delivery and by developing a cadre of local English Teacher Trainers (both face to face trainers and e-Teacher/ Moderators) who can deliver ongoing training after the project has ended. 

Theory of change: Students in the Rwandan lower secondary education system, studying through the medium of English, will have better learning opportunities as a result of their teachers having better English language skills and thus being more able to articulate and explain their subjects in the classroom. The Lower Secondary Teachers (LSTs) will achieve enhanced levels of English as a result of undertaking an initial 30- or 60-hour residential intensive English course during which they will learn with specifically designed materials taught by English Teacher Trainers (ETTs) who will have been trained in communicative language teaching for this very purpose. The LSTs will continue to improve their English level after the residential intensive course by completing 60 or 90 hours of self-study materials over 20 weeks on 4G enabled tablet devices loaned by the project for the duration of their study. The LSTs will continue to improve their speaking and production of English by participating in weekly live online speaking and communication sessions delivered by e-Teacher/Moderators (eTMs) who will have been trained by STELIR. At the end of the online course, school-based English language classes will be delivered by School-Based Mentors (SBMs) for a period of five months, taking the learning cycle to a full year for each level. Those LSTs who require further language improvement after their courses will attend a second intensive English course one year after the first and go through the cycle once or twice more until they have achieved an overall B1 level, with a minimum B1 level in productive skills.

The model will also be applied at the University of Rwanda College of Education (URCE) where 1,000 trainee Lower Secondary Teachers will benefit from intensive and remote blended English courses delivered by URCE tutors who have been trained in the same way as the English Teacher Trainers and e-Teacher/Moderators.

Future generations of LSTs will have better levels of English as a result of the courses created under this project and the pedagogies adopted by those who benefit from the capacity building being embedded in the curriculum of the URCE. 

STELIR three-stage blended English language course: At the core of STELIR’s design is a three-stage language development programme, the STELIR blended English language course. This is a blended English language course comprising of: 30 or 60 hours (dependent on language level) of intensive in-person English lessons over one or two weeks; 60 or 90 hours of asynchronous online learning with weekly synchronous live sessions over 20 weeks; and a final stage of in-person continuous professional development led by School-Based Mentors (SBMs) at schools. Teachers’ first contact with STELIR will be the Aptis English proficiency test to gauge their level of English, and they will then be offered STELIR 3-stage blended English language courses at the appropriate level.

STELIR three-stage blended English language course

Innovation and ICT: Technology is at the heart of Rwanda’s vision to spearhead social and economic transformation. Relevant, quality education for all is key and ICT in education is regarded as a strategic lever to raised standards.  The STELIR design recognises this and aims to champion innovation to support Rwanda in being recognised within the region and globally as an innovator in terms of using pioneering and cost-effective technology to deliver teacher development initiatives at scale.

Gender: Whereas females make up the majority of primary school teachers in Rwanda (56.8%), they account for only 33.7% of secondary school teachers (Education Statistical Yearbook, 2020/2021). This means secondary female teachers are in a minority both at school level and when participating in professional development opportunities for teachers at large. Since being in a minority of almost one female to every three males can undermine self-confidence and lower self-esteem, in turn inhibiting participation and learning, course tutors will be sensitised to these issues and trained in inclusive teaching techniques, ensuring female participants are given equal time in speaking practice and that their contributions to group discussions are valued. In addition to sensitising tutors to gender issues and inclusive teaching techniques, we will identify women trainers (ETTs) who can also be role models and mentors for female teachers participating in the project.

Given that teaching and learning materials can potentially propagate gender inequality through gender stereotypes and discriminatory content, all the materials developed by the programme will be reviewed with a gender lens to ensure that they do not reinforce gender stereotypes. 

The Aptis placement testing also provides an opportunity to identify any gender gaps between the language skill scores for male and female LSTs and inform STELIR activities aimed at reducing the gender gap. 

STELIR timeline: During STELIR inception (2022) 556 teachers in one district sat Aptis tests and 185 began a STELIR blended English language course. STELIR project implementation will now run for three years through to the end of 2025, with project activities split across the years: Approximately 3,000 lower-secondary teachers and 1,000 trainee teachers reached initially in year 1 (2023), and a further approximately 2,500 in year 2 (2024).  In year 3 (2025) courses will continue with teachers progressing up through the levels year by year through to intermediate level and/or project close.