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Belize’s Education Sector Strategy Print E-mail
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Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:00

The Government and people of Belize contribute 26% of its budget towards Education and so it has become necessary to occasionally do a diagnosis via an Education Sector Strategy (ESS). Such a sector diagnosis to provide empirical data on the Educational System was done in 2011 and consultations were held with the relevant stakeholders from April to June 2012.  It has been improved on so extensively that it has to date become the lighthouse for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

A guiding force towards an ESS within Belize has always been a social and economic challenge but it is needed to improve both individual and collective lives. One of the views that have been expressed at a recent educational forum is that investments in education were about doing things differently and not about just investing more. Such a view point has been shared by David Leacock, the Chief Executive Officer within the Ministry of Education in “…how do we make better use of the available resources.”

In the Report entitled, ‘Improving access, quality and governance of education in Belize’ and contained in the Education Sector Strategy 2011 to 2016, it was revealed by Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, that we had 100,000 students enrolled in schools at all levels, twice that of 1990. According to Minister Faber, there were 5,000 teachers, more than twice of 1990; 541 schools, twice of 1990 and 190 Million was being spent in education, five times more than from within that same period.

With the visit to Belize by Mrs. Maria Eugenia Paniagua, the Secretary General of a Central American initiative to coordinate Culture and Education CECC/SICA, on November 12th of this year, Belize’s Education Sector Strategy was highlighted within the Regional Context. The discussion of ESS rose to prominence with a discussion of a Central American Education Policy Proposal from 2013 to 2021. It was also an opportunity for us to examine the inner workings of Education in Belize as was revealed at this important meeting of National and Regional experts.

Belize’s schools are generally managed under a Church-State partnership and there has always been hope that such management is made with the participation of all stakeholders.

“…the Sector Strategy also looks for the diagnosis, also looked at governance within the sector and what it noted was that there was weak collaboration or a ‘silo’ culture, that there was a diversity of managing authorities, diversity of standards; no single accountability, overall there was weak or no accountability, limited parental voice and engagement,” said David Leacock.

In terms of cost, the price for the delivery of education has shown to be steadily rising at all sub sector levels across Belize. According to David Leacock, “Access to education is unevenly spread across Belize and this continues to drive inequality and there was a need to getting the so called ‘have nots,’ the marginalized groups, into education.”

In reviewing Belize’s ESS to regional partners, David Leacock also said that at the Primary Educational level there is almost universal access with a 95% enrollment. But there was a high repetition at the Primary Level so that 2 in 5 complete at the “right” age. Multi-grade schools tend to perform less and there was a need for the amalgamation of these small schools. Trained teachers at the primary level were “woefully” low and even lower in the Toledo District. (Some improvements in educational performance have been registered in the Toledo District due to Government’s subsidy.) ESS had also showed that the Primary School Examinations (PSE) had not changed much in performance over a decade. However; the data showed that the PSE results were generally higher in the urban areas than the rural. The good news was that the majority of those primary school students who “survived” to go to Standard Six also go to high school.

But once at the Secondary educational level, there was a high repetition and dropout rates. At the Secondary level students meet a curriculum that is highly academic and where vocational and technical education is less valued. There were also high repetition rates in the Corozal District at the Secondary Level. According to Leacock, the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate Exam (CSEC) showed greater improvements in English and only marginal improvement in math; with performance being greater in the urban than in the rural.

But the biggest challenge faced by the Belize Ministry of Education is that resources are finite.

“When people say that you have 26% of the budget, they assume that the Ministry (of Education) is flushed with resources; actually most of the resources are simply transferred from the Ministry to providers, only a small amount is left at the Ministry to do development work, planning work, quality assurance work…” says David Leakcock. But with the huge spending going towards education, “…we have to ask ourselves what are we getting in return for what we are spending, so a lot of the change that we need and expansion that we need has to be funded through improved efficiencies in response to this diagnosis.”

As a result of the Belize ESS, some three key policy objectives have been identified for the improvement of education in Belize. These are for an increased equitable access for all to education, improving the quality of education at all levels and the strengthening of governance throughout the education sector.

With the ESS being made public, there is new hope that there can be more data analysis by School Managers, for evidence based planning; something which the experts say is greatly needed if education at the National and Regional level is to be improved.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 15:26