|The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports|
Part I Descriptive Section
In Belize the goal of providing elementary education for children and even adults commenced in the first two decades of the nineteenth century through an incipient partnership between the political authority in what was then a very small British settlement and Christian missionaries. By the end of the century a legally established partnership between church and state enabled elementary schools to be opened in the different administrative districts of the now fully constituted British Crown Colony. A very small number of private secondary schools were also opened. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, compulsory schooling became law and the policy to provide basic education for all the children within the compulsory school ages between six years to fourteen years was adopted by the colonial government and carried out throughout the colonial period and into the present era of an independent Belize.
The policy of providing schooling for all children of compulsory school-age has not slackened and access to secondary, higher and further education has expanded. However these endeavours have not been without drawbacks and challenges of various kinds.
1.EFA Goals and Targets
Today the broad and long-term goal of education for all which was declared at the time of the Jomtien Conference is consistent with the policy of the Government of Belize stated as follows:
ensuring that all Belizeans are given the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for full and active participation in the development of the nation and for their own personal development.
More recently the Ministry has adopted the four pillars proposed in the report of the UNESCO appointed International Commission on Education for the Twenty First Century as Belizes foundation of education: learning to live together, learning to know, learning to do and learning to be. These stated principles are the underpinnings of the goals and targets relating to the six dimensions contained in the FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION.
1.1 Expansion of Early Childhood Education and Development
Early childhood care involves more than schooling. It embraces the physical care of the child from its prenatal stage of existence of its preschool years and thereafter during the earliest year of grade or primary school. Clearly the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) cannot be expected to carry out such a broad area of responsibility alone. The Ministry of Health provides for prenatal and post-natal clinic for mothers to ensure that the yet unborn and newly born babies have the necessary chance for survival. There is also a national immunization programme. Facilities for the aspects of childcare described here are provided at health clinics in all townships and in some villages.
Early childhood education at the preschool level (between 3 and 5 years) grew rather slowly and was based largely on an old fashioned view of teaching the 3-year-olds children as a preparation for primary school. It was a wholly private effort and was confined to a very small number of kindergartens.
This level of education began to take off in the 1970s through interventions by the Belizean Government, Extra Mural Department of the University of the West Indies and UNICEF. Today the Pre-School Unit of the MoES is the agency through which up-to-date ideas and practices are being propagated. The overall public policy is to give support to private and community efforts to provide for early childhood care and development. With regard to preschool education, the goals and objectives remain very similar to what they were at the beginning of the EFA Decade.
to develop appropriate learning abilities and skills and confidence of young children as a foundation for further personal and socio-emotional growth;
to contribute to every aspect of their lives, including parental care and their formal education.
to establish, expand and refurbish pre-school centres;
to increase the percentage of children 3-5 years attending pre-school centres;
to establish an early childhood education resource centre;
to improve the preparation of persons involved in pre-school education;
to promote early childhood development and care as a community effort.
1.2 Universal Primary Education
to ensure that all children of compulsory schooling age have access to education directed to the harmonious development of the whole child;
to promote the best of the culture of Belize and its valued tradition;
to inspire among children a sense of service, self-respect and respect for others and for country.
to build a strong learning foundation focusing on a broad-based curriculum for the development of the whole child;
to access more educational materials supplies and equipment for the schools;
to increase the number of fully qualified teachers (meaning teachers who have successfully completed a two year programme of teacher education followed by a period of internship) from 47% (the position in 1990) to 80% by 2000;
to provide training for school principals in management/ administration of schools;
to provide better living quarters for teachers who work in the rural areas;
to institute an equitable teacher placement policy;
to continue the implementation of the existing textbook policy so as to minimize cost and increase the availability and affordability of essential textbooks to all school children;
to continue the reform of educational assessment and evaluation of school children through an improved Belize National Selection Examination (BNSE) for children who have completed the primary school course and a national assessment programme at the middle division level of the primary school;
to improve the delivery of primary education through a reform of the management of the educational system.
1.3 Improvement of Learning Achievement
In Belize no national standard has been specifically set regarding any agreed percentage of an appropriate age cohort which is expected to attain or surpass a defined level of necessary learning achievement within the primary school. In principle it is a general desire among school principals and teachers that all pupils should achieve a minimum pass mark or "satisfactory" performance in every content area of the curriculum at each grade level and that all should complete the eight years of the primary school course successfully. Up to the mid-point of the EFA decade, the Curriculum Development Unit of the Ministry of Education issued a common set of curriculum guides to every government and grant-aided school in the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies for every year of the primary school course. Teachers were expected to teach to the goals and objectives of these curricula. There were no officially mandated curriculum guides relating to other facets of the primary school curriculum including the arts, physical education and religion. Since then, a new initiative has been launched to construct a completely new curriculum for the primary school which includes the traditional content areas as well as one relating to Work and Technology, and Spanish. However, the various units are still in the pilot stage. Upon completing Standard VI, the final primary school class level, the school-leaving pupils sit the BNSE based on the core subjects of the curriculum. The BNSE serves as a means of providing primary school leavers with a credential of having completed primary schooling and as an instrument for determining admission to secondary school since secondary education is still not universal. Theoretically, all children completing eight years of primary schooling should be able to answer most of the questions set and perform in the upper quartiles of the BNSE. Realistically, teachers and examiners know from experience that only a minority of the candidates perform so well. There is also a Belize Junior Achievement Test (BJAT) set at the mid-point of the primary school grades. This has only been introduced during the latter part of the EFA decade. Its purpose is to assess the performance of the pupils in English and Mathematics at the end of their junior years and to use the test as a diagnostic instrument. It is still being perfected. The goals and objectives of this dimension are tied to those of universal primary education.
Accessing more materials, supplies and equipment which are appropriate in quantity and quality for schools;
Increasing the number of qualified teachers;
Continuing the implementation of the existing textbook policy which aims at making textbooks available and affordable to all school children;
Continuing the reform of educational assessment and evaluation through an improved primary school leaving examination and a national assessment programme at the middle level of the primary school.
1.4 Adult Literacy
Adult literacy has been recognised over many years as key to a reasonable life chance. This has been one of the main reasons for the priority given to primary education. There was a time when the literacy rate for the adult population was claimed to be over 90%. However, during recent years this rate has fallen to below 80%. There are several reasons for this fall. Evidently the dropout rate in our primary schools is one reason. Another may be the influx of Central Americans since the 1970s, some of whom did not achieve literacy prior to migrating. Some may even be counted as illiterate simply because they cannot speak, read or write in English. Cognisant of the literacy situation the MoES has led an initiative to establish the Literacy Council of Belize (LCB) and has been making an effort to strengthen its adult and continuing education capabilities.
to reduce the national illiteracy rate by 50%by the end of the year;
to regard the LCB as a government appointed body working under the auspices of the MoES mandated to carry out the national strategy for the eradication of illiteracy in Belize;
3. to bring literacy into national focus.
to provide the LCB with the necessary support for it to bring technical and material support in the drive to make Belize illiteracy free;
Expansion in Provision of Basic Education and
Training in Essential Skills
Expansion of primary schooling implies increased provision for basic education within the formal system for education. However, there is still much under-utilisation of the physical and human resources of primary schools for the provision of basic education and for training in essential skills to out-of-school youth and adults. Other than formal primary education various agencies have been making valuable contributions to the provision of basic education and training in essential skills. The literacies are highly important and these are being provided for through programmes conducted by the YWCA, YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girls Guides and other voluntary agencies, which provide skills training, especially with regards to girls and women. These programmes are mostly in the old capital, Belize City, which is also the largest urban centre. Practical employment skills are being provided by the Centre for Employment Training (CET) in Belize City and another in San Ignacio in the West. The 4H Centre, the Belize Youth Development Centre, the Youth Enhancement Service and Conscious Youth Development Project are also engaged in employment training.
To contribute to the countrys social, cultural and economic development while at the same time developing the potential in young adults to enable them to participate actively as members of the work force;
1.6 Education for Better Living Made
Available Through All Education Channels.
At the mid-point of the EFA Decade the country report for Belize indicated that there was no national plan nor programme aimed specifically to promote this aspect of education in Belize other than those referred to above under previous sub-heads except the media which include books, newspapers, radio and television, and of course, travel. There are also community and church groups and sporting and art performance events (the arts have had a difficult time developing over many years and remain very much underdeveloped). There was a national broadcasting service in the past but this has been closed down. However, there are several radio stations in Belize City and in other district centres. There are also several television companies in Belize City and in other parts of the country, which air local news and events and provide cable service beamed from the USA. There are three major weekly newspapers and various agencies publish their newsletters. Newspapers from abroad, mainly from the USA, are available at certain stores. Also a national archives and a museum is in the making.
The media are not used in any nationally planned way. Nor are there such activities as street theatre. However, the media are used to advertise campaigns relating to health and social matters. There are also special weeks and dates spread over the yearly calendar celebrating cultural aspects or campaigning against threats to health and social living. During such times talks and discussions are held and aired over the radio and television stations. The Arts Council sponsors an annual Childrens Festival of Arts. In previous years it also sponsored an adult Festival of Arts but this has become dormant. However, from time to time certain drama groups present dramatic performances. Choral groups make similar presentations with regard to music. Occasionally the Arts Council invites foreign ensembles to perform, mainly in Belize City but, as resources and time may allow they may travel to other townships, including Belmopan, the capital of Belize.
2. EFA Strategy and/or Plan of Action
The goals and targets, which are specifically related to formal education, are embodied in the national education plan and considered strategies of the Ministry of Education and Sports. In carrying out its policies and plans the MoES works in partnership with the churches and other voluntary agencies so as to ensure the existence of adequate support systems for the delivery of appropriate and equitable educational services. The MoES believes that the co-operation of all appropriate agencies is crucial to the success of the Governments policy on education. Consequently, all the strategies/plans formulated are based on the principle of partnership and co-operation in education.
2.1 Early Childhood Care and
The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with other ministries of government community organisations, private enterprise and externally funded agencies, principally UNICEF, has been utilising the following strategy of:
Universal Primary Education
The longstanding strategy remains in the form of a church-state partnership in which managing authorities of grant-aided primary and secondary schools are authorised to operate schools. As a rule, the churches take the initiative to open primary and secondary schools where they perceive the need to do so. In time they become grant-aided. The MoES also operates a minority of government schools for which the Chief Education Officer (CEO) serves as General Manager.
Formal education programmes are also supported by a number of aid agencies. One major contributor to the efforts to improve primary education during the EFA Decade has been the World Bank with inputs from the ODA of the British Government (now re-named DFID). The partially external funding of the Belize Primary Education Development Project (BPEDP), which is now at the closing point, has pursued the following objectives:
Improvement of Learning Environment
The strategy is to place fully trained teachers equipped with the necessary professional competence to deliver quality instruction to children with the necessary support from:
The LCB has been set up and mandated, in
accordance with a comprehensive national literacy plan, to combat illiteracy in Belize.
The ultimate goal is to eradicate illiteracy in this country. The LCB has been mandated to
set up literacy classes where the need exists and resources allow, targeting especially
communities such as those in deprived rural areas where literacy rates are suspected to be
less than satisfactory, in other words where the incidence of illiteracy seems to be high.
To this end the LCB has mobilised and trained literacy workers on a national scale.
The Adult/Continuing Education Department of the Ministry of Education also has the responsibility for literacy and post-literacy programmes and works in conjunction with LCB and other non-government agencies, which promote literacy and post-literacy programmes.
2.5 Expansion of Provisions for Basic Education and Training in Essential Skills
Again it needs to be re-iterated that expanded provisions for basic education is realized through the expansion of formal education at the primary and the post-primary levels.
CET focuses on five major categories of services:
Its target population consists of
out-of-school youth including: primary school leavers; secondary school dropouts; the
general public with a certain level of literacy and numeracy and people actually working
who wish to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
Training at CET is short term, individualised, competency-based, and modularised so as to allow flexibility while assuring its relevance to the labour market demands. The Vocational Technical Training Unit (VTTU) serves as the Ministry of Educations vehicle for technical/vocational education and training programme development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The VTTU is charged with working with two sub-systems: nine secondary technical government schools and training institutions such as CET (of which there are now two with plans to build others).
Through linkages, internal and external, technical assistance and equipment are donated and scholarships offered. Additionally, advisory committees provide inputs in curriculum planning and development.
2.6 Education for Better Living
The Government of Belize is cognisant of the need to give attention to this dimension and has consequently made some provision for it. In the financial year 1990/1991, for example, the Minister of Education also had responsibility for Sports, Culture as well as for the National Library Services, the Archives and Museums. Modest allocations were made in the estimates as follows (2$BZE=1$US):
Culture $87,914 BZE
Sports $40,000 BZE
Department of Museum $76,380 BZE
Information and Broadcasting $1,074,376 BZE
Belize Archives Department $112,328 BZE
National Library Service $442,055 BZE
Educational Broadcasting $67,678 BZE
A Sports Council was established to promote sports and the Arts Councils mission was to promote the Arts and Culture.
At the close of the EFA decade Government of Belizes (GoB) estimates 1999/2000 made the following provisions within the Ministry of Education and Sports.
National Sports Council $536,920BZE
National Library Service $750,000BZE
Belize Archives Department $218,400BZE
The Ministry of Rural Development and
Culture now has responsibility for the Belize Arts Council. The Estimates give no
indication as to the broader focus of this ministry on the broader aspects of the
advancement of the cultural life of the people of Belize. Similarly there is no indication
of the ways the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture is to be involved in rural
There is a Ministry of Tourism Broadcasting and Information but in fact the government subsidised Broadcasting Corporation of Belize has been closed down as well as the Belize Information Services a public service department.
A specific strategy or plan for education through the media and through informal education is non-existent except for campaign advertisements relating to health and other social matters. The existence of several radio stations and television companies is an indication that there are audience for news broadcasts documentaries and movies. There is also a readership for the three major weekly newspapers. The media are very significant sources through which individuals and families acquire informal education. Community members also participate in various types of voluntary organisations such as the Family Life Association, credit unions, trade unions, youth groups, womens groups and other social associations.
3. EFA Decision-Making and Management
At the time of the Jomtien conference in 1990 a newly elected government had assumed office under Belizes independence constitution and was in the process of establishing its policies and programmes. In the area of education the policy of endeavouring to make basic education for all, expanding opportunity for post-primary, technical and vocational education and further and higher education remained as long-standing public aspirations. No special EFA mechanism was set up to pursue the goals and targets contained in the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs as these were incorporated into the Governments Educational Development Plan to be carried out within the framework of the existing educational system. At the close of the EFA Decade this remains the essential strategy.
The Government of the day, specifically the Cabinet, sets out policies. Management and co-ordination of the educational system as a whole is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education holds the portfolio for the Ministry of Education and a Permanent Secretary serves as advisor to the Minister of Education. The CEO is the leading technical officer and advises the Permanent Secretary and the Minister of Education on technical matters relating to education. The CEO is responsible for the supervision and co-ordination of the school system, working in collaboration with several levels of education officers as well as in co-operation with school managers and other partners in the enterprise of schooling.
Since 1990 efforts have been made to establish a more coherent management structure within the Ministry of Education. To this end a procedural manual was developed with consultancy inputs by Aubrey Armstrong Associates (1993). This manual defines the mission, structure and roles of the various sub-sectors of the Ministry of Education and sets out a new communication and reporting mechanism. Through the application of this mechanism the CEO is to meet regularly with his three Deputy Chief Education Officers (DCEO). The DCEOs in turn are to meet regularly with the heads of sections they are in charge of. Such meetings enable a steady flow of communication regarding the advancement or otherwise of programmes and projects and their accompanying issues and problems. These officers also have other opportunities to review and revise strategies and plans when the budgetary planning takes place each year. Targets are set and estimates of expenditure are prepared and justified.
District Education Officers (DEOs) monitor the schools and assess their progress and effectiveness in teaching the school curriculum. However, there are only eight DEOs to supervise more than 245 primary schools and generally to represent the Ministry of Education in their districts. The Manual of Operations sets out guidelines for the operation of District Education Management Teams to provide support for the DEOs. These are comprised of community members and the DEO. Assistant District Education Officers are being appointed to strengthen the supervisory staff.
Within the Ministry of Education there are several units which assist in the implementation of policy goals and objectives and in the co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation of programmes. These include the Belize Teachers College, the Education Development Centre which accommodates the newly established Quality Assurance Development Service with its sub-units being the Curriculum Development Unit, the Assessment and Evaluation Unit and the Examination Unit (for administration of external examinations) and Teacher Licensing. There are also the Vocational Technical Unit, the Pre-School Education Unit, the Special Education Unit and the Literacy Council of Belize. These units are grouped under the three divisions of the MoES: The Primary Education Division, the Secondary and Technical Education Division and the Planning and Development Division in charge.
By law there is a National Council for Education (NCE) the purpose of which is to play a leading role in policy formulation and in monitoring the progress of education in Belize. The Council has recently been re-constituted after a period of dormancy.
Voluntary agencies outside of the Government structure have played a very important role in promoting the goals and targets emanating from Jomtien. They include UNICEF, which has focused on early childhood education, special education and the rights of the child. The UNESCO Commission in Belize includes EFA concerns within its scope and so does the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which has provided buildings for primary school education. The British High Commission has also provided assistance to primary education in the form of schools and equipment. The Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) has been helpful in the area of health and nutrition while the British High Commission was particularly instrumental in getting a School Canteen Association established, thereby providing a model for setting up school canteens.
Other locally formed agencies have also made significant contributions to the promotion of EFA goals and targets such as the YWCA, the YMCA Scouts, Girl Guides and others which endeavour to assist unemployed youth and women. As a rule they are in communication with the MoES.
4. Co-operation in EFA
The MoES is responsible for providing essential services for all formal education, including supporting most pre-school centres as well as technical/vocational training programmes budgeted for in its annual estimates of expenditure.
Certain other government departments also participate in providing basic education services. They include:
Ministry of Human Development: the Department of Womens Affairs runs training courses for women; the Department of Youth is responsible for a small training school, the Youth Development Centre and for the 4Hcentre as well as the Conscious Youth Department engaged in the rehabilitation of youth
Labour Department: the Labour
Department conducts an apprenticeship programme.
Prisons Department: the Prison Department conducts literacy classes for inmates as well as practical training programmes.
Voluntary Services: A number of non-government organisations contribute to basic educational services. The Council of Voluntary Social Services runs leadership courses for members of community organisations. The Christian Social Council does similar activities. The YWCA and YMCA run literacy and basic education classes. During the period under consideration there has been a growing number of womens groups and community organisations, all engaging their members in activities which are educational. These groups carry out a good deal of advocacy on behalf of their target groups.
Some 17 churches have been involved in
running schools, but they also have church groups, which meet for doctrinal purposes,
which have some educational impact.
There are several external agencies, which co-operate with the Government in promoting EFA. They include UNESCO, UNICEF, PAHO, and UNHCR. UNHCR has been particularly focused on providing schools for Central American refugee/immigrants, while UNICEF has been in the forefront with regard to adult literacy education for children with special needs and pre-school education.
The U.S. Embassy and the British High Commission have also made contributions to the provision of school places and some equipment. Through bi-lateral agreements with the Belize Government a number of countries have provided aid to education in Belize.
5. Investment in EFA since 1990
During the period 1990-1995 public expenditures on education increased in absolute terms annually. In 1990 education comprised 18% of the total estimated expenditure of government. As a percentage of the education budget for 1990 primary education received 69.8%.
Total educational public expenditure grew by 37% between 1992 and 1997 at current prices representing an annual incremental rate of 6.2%. The trend in public spending shows two different patterns. Between 1992 and 1995, public spending on education increased significantly at a rate of 17% per year mainly because of significant increases in teachers salaries and governments decision to pay school tuition for all students in secondary schools. Then from 1995 on, public spending on education began to stabilise up to 1997 and even decreased in real terms. From 1994 to 1996 the recurrent expenditure remained at the same level because of the policy adopted by Government to "freeze" the salaries of teachers and public officers. The increase during this period was led by the secondary level of education which grew at the rate of 12% per year, followed by the tertiary level which increased at 7.5% per year. The primary level increased at a rate of 6.4%
As a percentage of total public expenditure, the overall education expenditure accounted for 22% in 1997 an average of 21%for the period 1992-1997. However, considering the recurrent expenditures, it represented an average of 28% of the total public sector expenditures.
No study has been made of community and family expenditure on education. Business and commercial firms have never made significant inputs of money and other resources into basic or any other level of education in this country. Recently however, an individual foreign businessman funded a pilot computer instructional project for a small number of primary schools. Another has made substantial contributions to the setting up of computer centres supported by instructional programmes for teachers in 19 secondary schools with plans to equip all secondary schools with such centres.
The most significant investment in basic education during the period has been the BPEDP funded by a loan of $7.1m US from the World Bank supported by an agreed $4.5m US to be expended by the GoB. ODA has provided technical assistance through a grant for consultancies and training for personnel of the Belize Teachers College, the Curriculum Development Unit and for a number of the senior technical officers of the Ministry of Education.
Table 1: Recurrent and Capital Expenditure for Education 1990/91; 1993/94 & 1998/99
Capital II Expenditure
Capital III Expenditure
Education Budget 1990/1991
Grant-aided Secondary Schools
Government Secondary Schools
Other Educational Institutions
Tertiary Level Institutions
Capital II Expenditure
Capital III Expenditure
Government Secondary Schools
Grant-Aided Secondary Schools
Other Educational Institutions
Tertiary Level Institutions
Capital II Expenditure
Capital III Expenditure
Education Budget 1998/1999
Government Secondary School
Grand-Aided Secondary Schools
Other Educational Institutions
Tertiary Level Institutions
|Table 2: Number of Primary Schools and Enrollment|
No. of Schools
Between 1990 and 1998 the number of primary schools increased as follows. The following agencies contributed to the contribution of schools: Caribbean Development Bank (Basic Needs Trust Fund) (5 new buildings); US Army Project (4 new buildings); Commission for Refugees (Quick Impact Projects) (10 new buildings plus quite a number of extensions and repairs); GOB/Church Partnership (2 new buildings and 9 extensions) and IBRD (BPEDP) (30 new, repaired and expanded schools.<