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Part II Analytic Section

6. Progress Toward Goals and Targets

During the EFA Decade (1990-1999) the Government of Belize pressed on to achieve the goals and targets set out in the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. Much was achieved but much also remains to be accomplished. At the time of writing the MoES is undertaking yet another National Consultation directed towards the development of a new Education Sector Strategy (ESS) and not surprisingly the outputs of the Consultation reveal that there are many issues still remaining to be resolved in the areas of access, relevance/quality and efficiency in the provisions for basic education in Belize. There are issues of disparities between the urban schools and the rural schools, issues of management and supervision, issues of resource allocation and issues of program as well as professional development. Nevertheless, progress has been made in each of the six dimensions as outlined in the Framework;

Expansion of Early Childhood Care and Development

This dimension involves more than sheer expansion of facilities for early childhood education through preschool centres. It involves provision for the care of young children. Such provision must include prenatal and post-natal clinics for mothers at which they receive medical attention and counseling regarding infant care. Public maternity care for women has been a longstanding service and with better training for nurses and pediatric specialization of our local doctors this service has grown better with the years. One drawback is that prenatal and post-natal clinics are provided essentially in Belize City and the other towns. For the rural communities pregnant mothers must find their way to the urban centres to get the attention they need. For the most distant communities women must depend on traditional midwives. Children are also provided with immunization against certain diseases at the health clinics or at the schools. This public effort to ensure that pregnant mothers give birth to healthy babies is the first measure to give the newborns a reasonable chance to begin their growth and development in a satisfactory manner.

The continued child care of young children depends very much on the ability of mothers and families in general to provide adequate nutrition and emotional nurturing of the child. It is during the early years of childhood that the brain grows so as to provide the young human being with the capabilities to learn. Consequently, adequate nurturing is crucial to early childhood education.

As can be observed, modest progress has been made up to the middle of the EFA Decade period with regard to increasing the number of places in these centres for the under-five year olds, the majority of such centres being in the towns. The large majority of the preschool centres were operated by communities and churches, and are provided with some financial and technical support from the Ministry of Education. There were almost as many wholly private preschool centres as there were those run either by communities or by churches. A much smaller number were operated by secular organisations and the Ministry of Education. The table below shows the distribution of these centres by management for the year 1995 and the one following indicates the spread between urban and rural areas. The other two tables, which follow, present the position for 1996 – 1997.

Table 3: Number of Pre-Schools by District by Management – 1994-95

 

Management

Orange Stann

Belize Cayo Corozal Walk Creek Toledo

 

All

Government

Gov’t-Aided

Private

3 3 - 1 - -

15 4 9 1 8 3

18 6 9 4 5 1

7

40

43

All 36 13 18 6 13 4

90


Table 4: Number of Pre-Schools by Management by Urban/Rural Location – 1994-95

Management Urban Rural All
Government

Government-Aided

Private

4 3 7

17 23 40

32 11 43

All 53 37 90


Table 5: Number of Pre-Schools by District by Management – 1996-97

Management Belize Cayo Corozal Orange Walk Stann Creek Toledo All
Community

Private

14

23

7

7

9

12

2

5

6

6

0

3

38

56

All

37

14

21

7

12

3

94


Table 6: Number of Pre-Schools by Management by Urban/Rural Location – 1996-97

Management

Urban

Rural

All

Community

Private

11

40

27

16

38

56

All

51

43

94

The growing preschool movement is being established to complement other actions for the early childhood care and development of the young in Belize. Beginning in a very small way more than fifty years ago in a few very small schools in which the teaching was rather drab, the movement expanded rapidly in the 1970s when the Ministry of Education became involved in preschool education. In 1980 the first Preschool Coordinator was appointed under a program involving the Ministries of Health, Social Services and Education and supported financially by UNICEF and the Preschool Unit of the Ministry of Education was established.

The Ministry of Education has intervened in preschool education cautiously, preferring that individuals and communities carry the initiative at this level. As a matter of policy, the Ministry of Education considers its role to be that of providing the institutional basis for administering and giving support to preschool education. Up to mid-decade government preschool centres were managed by the Ministry of Education through the Preschool Unit and the DEOs. In general government preschool centres were established in localities where there is a need but where no religious denomination or community group has volunteered to open and operate such centers. Shortly after the mid-decade all government preschools were converted to community preschool centers. This is the position today.

The Ministry of Education assists government-aided preschools with salaries or grants or both. Before 1995 such assistance varied widely, but since then action has been taken to systematize government's financial assistance to government-aided preschool centres. In the process the assistance to preschool education was reduced significantly. In 1995-1996 there were thirty-nine government-aided preschool centres.

Private preschool centres do not normally receive any subsidy from Government. They are usually operated by individuals. A few are owned by churches or other voluntary organizations. Private preschools are located in urban communities and are financially independent and sustainable and usually cater to children from the more favoured socio-economic strata of the society. The tables below show the reduction of the number of preschools in 1997-98.

Table 7: Number of Pre-Schools by District by Management – 1997-98

Management

Belize

Cayo

Corozal

Orange Walk

Stann Creek

Toledo

All

Community

Private

12

24

7

8

9

8

1

8

5

3

0

3

34

54

All

36

15

17

9

8

3

88

Table 8: Number of Pre-Schools by Management by Urban/Rural Location – 1997-1998

Management

Urban

Rural

All

Community

Private

12

41

22

13

34

54

All

53

35

88

The Pre-School Unit of the MoES has been rendering technical support to preschool centres, partly with assistance from UNICEF. Its accomplishments include:

Universal Primary Education

During the entire EFA Decade the GoB has remained committed to provide schooling for all children of compulsory school age, that is, between the ages of 5 and 14 years through the application of its policy of a church/community - state system of educational administration and control. The table below indicates progress towards the provision of education for all school age children.

Table 9: Primary School Gross Enrollment

Year

Enrollment of 5-14 yrs. old

Total Population 5-14 yrs. old

Male

Female

Male

Female

1990/91

22,659

22,240

27,312

26,717

1994/95

25,346

23,734

32,465

31,665

1997/98

26,280

24,797

34,270

32,645

The net enrolment ratios for the years compared are: 1990/91 (81.2%); 1994/95 (76.5%) and 1997/98 (76.3%).

The increased enrolment of primary school age children is increasing, but the impact of increased provision of primary schooling depends on two factors: the extent to which provision keeps pace with the growth of the target population and the extent to which provision is accompanied by a reasonable level of use of provision by the target population.

The provision of schools during the period under consideration is given in the table that follows:

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