“Change we must and change we can!” avowed Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hon. Patrick Faber as he launched his ministry’s five-year Belize Education Sector Reform Project, with US$2 million in funding from the Caribbean Development Bank.
It’s actually a billion dollar plan, Faber explained after the launch ceremony at the Radisson Fort George Hotel on Wednesday, January 16; as the UDP administration of Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow plans to spend $200 million per year on education over the next five years: a billion dollars total.
The plan will have a three-pronged approach: increased equitable access to education, improved relevance and quality of education and strengthening the governance of the educational system for increased student achievement.
Equitable access means more $300 per student annual subsidies for students based on socio-economic needs, Faber explained. It also means more classrooms will be built, with more scholarships offered at secondary and tertiary levels.
The ministry has already implemented a Quality School Program, with funding from the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), but even Faber admits that increasing enrollment to meet targets will be no easy feat.
Improved quality will come with the appointment of a chief inspector of schools and a deputy Inspector, who will be training an inspection team to commence inspections and evaluations of schools throughout the country this year.
The ministry has also introduced a Certificate of Education program to augment the qualifications of teachers whose degree is in areas of expertise other than education. It has also implemented its Secondary Teachers Education Program (STEPS) with funding from the European Union, beginning in the Stann Creek district last year.
The ministry also launched its Teacher Leadership Program last October for 60 Principals, vice-principals, school managers and local managers in the north, who will be participating in a one-year training program at Corozal Junior College and in Orange Walk.
Improved governance will come from a Teaching Services Tribunal to enforce quality standards for teachers. The existing education rules have already been amended to take into account the new Teaching Services Commission.