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Rwanda System of Education

Rwanda operates on a 6-3-3-4 system: 

  • Primary School - 6 years
  • Junior Secondary School - 3 years
  • Senior Secondary School - 3 years
  • University Bachelor’s degree - 4 years

Language: There are three official languages of instruction throughout the Rwandan educational system: Kinyarwanda in primary schools, and French and English at high schools and universities.  Some private schools use English and French from kindergarten to the end of high school.

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 public schools, all students take a curriculum consisting of English and French languages, Integrated Science, Mathematics, and Social Studies.  Each student also takes six or seven subjects, chosen from one of nine groups: Sciences, Arts (social sciences and humanities), Vocational (visual arts or home economics), Technical, Business, or Agriculture.  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 their six or seven subjects.  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.

Secondary School Grading

Grade Grade Scale Scale Boundary Performance
85-100 A 11 10.5 – 11 Excellent
80-84 A- 10 9.5 - 10.4
75-79 B+ 9 8.5 - 9.4 Very Good
70-74 B 8 7.5 - 8.4
65-69 B- 7 6.5 - 7.4
60-64 C+ 6 5.5 - 6.4 Merit
55-59 C 5 4.5 - 5.4
50-54 C- 4 3.5 – 4.4
40-49 D+,D,D- 3 and 2 1.5 – 2.5 Pass








Insufficient and Unclassified students are not issued a certificate or diploma.The minimum university standard for admission to post-secondary education is a ‘C-’ in all subjects.  U.S. universities should not admit Rwandan students who have not attained at least this level.  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 National Examination Council, 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 are

  • National University of Rwanda at Butare
  • School of Finance and Banking, SFB at Kigali
  • Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, KIST
  • Kigali Institute of Education, KIE
  • Kigali Heath Institute, KHI
  • Higher Institute of Agriculture and Livestock, ISAE at Ruhengeri

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.  Seven 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 is still a paper-based testing center but with time will provide internet-based testing. The SAT and TOEFL are offered six times a year at one center located at the School of Finance and Banking (SFB) while the GRE is offered two times year at SFB. We no longer offer the GMAT since it is a computer-based test.  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:  or   
Phone: 250-252 596 689 
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!