The Ministry of Education launched Phase 2 of the Belize Education Sector Reform Project on Wednesday, January 27, at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza and key officials are now meeting with relevant stakeholders to review the implementation strategy for recommended reform. The project has three main objectives: improving governance in the education sector with emphasis on improved student achievement; increasing access and equity at all levels of education and; enhancing quality and relevance throughout the education system.
A highlight of phase two is the execution of plans to increasing access to education across the country. The Government of Belize has entered into a loan agreement with the Caribbean Development Bank for the construction of 35 new school buildings across the country. The loan is for a total of US$35 million and was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, explained that the Ministry has looked at communities across the country where the population has grown significantly to determine necessary locations for new schools. There will be 22 new schools for early childhood education (preschools). These schools will be built in Valley of Peace, Buena Vista, Billy White, Duck Run, St. Margaret’s, San Pablo (O.W.), San Jose (O.W.), Douglas, San Juan (O.W.), San Antonio (O.W.), Santa Cruz (O.W.), Trial Farm, Cowpen, Caye Caulker, Belmopan, Bella Vista, San Ignacio, Santa Elena, Independence, Pomona, Punta Gorda, San Pedro, Corozal Town and Dangriga. There will also be five new 8-classroom buildings for primary schools; including one in the Gungulung area of Lake Independence, and eight for secondary schools. In total, 5,300 extra spaces for students will be created in 148 new classrooms. Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, says the Government is now in the process of identifying property where they can build these schools.
In reaching the main objectives, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, David Leacock, explained that with the focus on improving governance, there will be the implementation of accountability systems to strengthen leadership in schools and throughout the education sector. There will also be continued investment in human resource development as well as the strengthening of management and evaluation systems. The effort to improve governance has already seen the passing of amendments to the Education and Training Act. Such amendments strengthen the accountability system of the education sector by transferring power from the executive to stakeholders as seen in the Teaching Services Commission.
In an effort to increase access and equity there will be the implementation of a countrywide school mapping system and location plan. This will help the Ministry to identify areas of the country where schools need to be built and where others need to be amalgamated in an effort to maximize on government’s resources. The $300 high school subsidy is one way in which government has already begun to invest in making education more accessible. In an effort to tackle the high rate of poverty in Stann Creek and Toledo, the Government has guaranteed the subsidy to all students upon graduation from primary school.
The Ministry will enhance quality and relevance throughout the education system by rationalizing and diversifying the secondary curriculum. There will be greater integration of technical and vocational courses in schools across the country. The project will also see the development of a national strategy for the integration of Information and Computer Technology in the education system. Leacock also stressed the importance of the development of national qualifications framework, which features multiple pathways to success rather than our traditional system, which focus solely on success in academics. Greater emphasis will be placed on strategies for the acquisition of a second language based on the diverse society that is Belize.
The Belize Education Sector Reform Project has been financed through a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank.