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Curriculum and Instruction

Document Type



This case study explored the effect of English-medium of instruction (EMI) policy on secondary school pupils’ learning experiences in Rwanda based on history teachers’ perceptions. It problematized the EMI policy myth that excluding any other language from classroom would promote excellence in both content and language learning. The EMI policy has been implemented from primary to tertiary level of education in Rwanda since 2008, where limited English proficiency levels among teachers and students constitute a serious challenge.

The purpose of this study was to investigate how the EMI policy has impacted Rwandan secondary school pupils’ learning experiences in History and Citizenship course in Rwanda, based on their teachers’ perspectives. The study further investigated whether the use of code-switching as a teaching-learning strategy helped secondary school pupils be academically successful.

This qualitative study adopted a single case study design (Yin, 2014), using semi-structured interviews with nine participants, including eight history teachers and one headteacher and former history teacher. In addition, more qualitative data were collected through classroom observations and media reports. The researcher’s interpretation led to an understanding of an aspect of the situation and provided rich information related to the phenomenon that could not be collected otherwise (McNealy, 1997). Interview questions provided an account of the difficulties and complexities teachers and pupils faced and the strategies they used to cope with the challenges that characterized the teaching-learning process, and the results, which might help other researchers be prepared to deal with a similar case in the future contexts.

The key study findings were supported by other research on English-medium of instruction in Rwanda as well as in other countries. Although history teachers seem to support the policy, this study found that the English-only policy has not been successfully implemented and has proved to be ineffective and unsuitable in delivering History and Citizenship course content due to the limited English proficiency of both teachers and pupils. History teachers and pupils’ limited English were also found to have a negative effect on pupils’ lesson comprehension, teaching quality and pupils’ academic achievement. History teachers’ lack of English proficiency in English also negatively affected their pedagogical practices in the classroom. The EMI was reported to slow down the teaching-learning process as teachers tried to adapt their teaching to the new phenomenon. History teacher also reported modifying their teaching and assessment practices and to frequently code-switching to Kinyarwanda as they faced the English medium of instruction challenge. Apart from the above challenges, this study found that the promotion of English-only policy had a marginalizing effect on Kinyarwanda (the official and national language), despite its support in all institutions of the country, including the Rwandan Constitution.

Keywords: English-medium of instruction, bilingualism, CLIL, Code-switching, language-in-education policy.



Committee Chair

Jacqueline Bach

Available for download on Wednesday, April 02, 2031