The use of English in institutions of higher learning: A case study of Kigali
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The English language was adopted as the third official language in Rwanda besides French and Kinyarwanda to accommodate the returning Rwandan refugees in 1994. English became one of the medium of instructions in Rwandan schools. Some nursery, primary, and secondary schools begun to teach in English. In IHLs, instruction was offered in French and English. In 2008, French was dropped as a MOI, and English was made the major MOI in Rwandan schools. Kinyarwanda is supposed to be taught from nursery to primary three, but the implementation especially in private schools has been ineffective and they have continued to teach in English. This study therefore sought to highlight the use of English by Rwandans who were educated in the medium of French so as to gain an understanding of how they are coping with the new situation and recommend necessary actions that may lead to an improvement in its use. This study sought to achieve its aim by looking at how English language is exposed to students and staff in Institutions of Higher Learning, their confidence, the setting under which it is used and the difficulties students and staff face using it. The study was carried out in three Institutions of Higher Learning namely, Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Kigali Health Institute (KHI), and Kigali Independent University (ULK). This study mainly focused on written competence. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of research were employed to collect the data and analyze them to draw conclusions. The findings revealed that the majority of respondents agreed that they had been exposed to English during their studies, more especially at IHL level, but little effort and time was devoted to English in comparison with other subjects at both levels of education thus contributing to a low level of confidence among respondents. The findings also revealed a significant increase in the use of English in both formal and informal settings. English is used for official oral and written communication, meetings, conferences and seminars by the respondents. Interestingly some respondents also had prepared and presented papers in conferences and seminars in English. However, English use after work and class was reported to be low. Emails and sms to friends and relatives in English for both staff and students in IHLs were not frequent. The majority of respondents reported that they were confident. However the need for assistance to edit their written work contradicts their claim of confidence. The existence of many errors in their written work reveals that performance in English for many of them is still wanting. The study further revealed that the majority of respondents were faced with many difficulties in their writing which resulted from the limited exposure and practice of the English language. The study therefore recommends action for the improvement of English language by all stakeholders such as the adoption of the right and relevant teaching-learning methodology and materials, providing opportunities for increased use and practice of English language if any significant improvement is to be made. However, given the existing favorable condition for English and the positive attitude towards learning, the future of English in Rwanda seems bright and improvement in the use of the English language is expected.