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Table 14: Dropouts by Gender and Grade for G & GA Primary Schools - 1994-95

 

MALE……………………………

FEMALE………………………..

GRADE

Dropouts

% of all

Dropouts

As % of

Enrollment

Dropouts

% of all

Dropouts

As % of

Enrollment

Infant 1

26

51

0.64

25

49

0.65

Infant 2

27

57

0.75

20

43

0.60

Std. 1

38

51

1.1

37

49

1.1

Std. 2

43

57

1.2

32

43

1.1

Std. 3

54

55

1.7

45

45

1.5

Std. 4

71

57

2.5

53

43

1.9

Std. 5

86

48

3.2

93

52

3.7

Std. 6

5

36

0.2

9

64

0.4

Total

350

53

1.32

314

47

1.26

Table 15: Dropouts by Gender and Grade for G & GA Primary Schools - 1993-94

 

MALE………………………….

FEMALE…………………….

GRADE

Dropouts

% of all

Dropouts

As % of

Enrollment

Dropouts

% of all

Dropouts

As % of

Enrollment

Infant 1

31

54

0.77

26

46

0.70

Infant 2

25

61

0.72

16

39

0.49

Std. 1

29

60

0.85

19

40

0.61

Std. 2

32

63

0.97

19

37

0.61

Std. 3

58

64

1.96

33

36

1.17

Std. 4

50

54

1.73

43

46

1.64

Std. 5

67

49

2.51

69

51

2.82

Std. 6

0

0

0

0

0

0

Total

292

56.5

1.97

225

43.5

0.96

Source: Final Report on Gender Study for EDC, 1996-1997

The Belize Primary Education Development Project was launched in 1992 after more than a year of preparation. Early in 1995 a mid-term review was carried out regarding its programmes. A summary of its findings is provided below:

Revision of teacher education. Achievements:

Examinations and assessment reform. Achievements:

Textbooks. Achievements:

The mid-term report on the BPEDP contains a detailed analysis of the status of the project and makes proposals for the future direction for each of its component programmes. At the time of writing (June 1999) the project is about to close after its calculated life span of 8 years. No full-scale official evaluation of the Project has yet been published. However, it is possible to make a few brief comments on its achievements.
Improvement of School Facilities. All the construction targets have been met, including the construction of 130 new classrooms and 46 renovated classrooms in 30 schools. DECs have been completed in all six district capitals. At the present time consultancies have been engaged to assess the functions of the DEC's and to assist those concerned in optimizing the use of these centres. The Education Development Centre is now being used to operate a new management agency - the Quality Assurance Development Service. The additional two storey building at the Belize Teachers College is in use although some aspects of its originally envisaged purpose are not in place. Several classrooms of the Belize Teachers College have been put out of regular use because the one year Level I teacher training programme is being run as an extra mural/distance training programme rather than as a full-time intra-mural programme.
Revision of Teacher Education. One of the major objectives set for the teacher training component of BPEDP was: "Provide technical assistance to help introduce a new pre-and in-service training programme under which some 700 primary school teachers would become professionally certified thereby increasing the percentage of certified teachers from 45% to 80% over the life of the project."
To this end the programme at the College was appropriately re-structured to stagger the previous two-year intramural programme followed by third year of internship by having a Level I year for which those who complete are awarded a trained teachers certificate and an increase in salary. Level I graduates can then train in the Level II programme at a move advanced level after a period of practice.
In a report relating to a World Bank supervisory mission (Sept. 8-17, 1998) the re-structured programme is stated as being successful, having admitted 953 teachers at Level I since 1990. Of 556 teachers who have completed the cycle 79% have fulfilled the requirements for Level I certification. 343 teachers are currently enrolled in the distance mode of Level I (1996, 1997, 1998 cohorts); 123 from the 1996 cohort graduated in 1999.
The target of increasing the number of trained teachers from 45% to 80% has not been reached, the number having risen to just over 63% on an average. However, Corozal and Belize Districts have shown a gain of having some 75% of their teachers trained. Other districts have reached a much lower level, but were even lower at the beginning of BPEDP in 1990.
Curriculum Development. In 1995, following the mid-term review of BPEDP by the World Bank, a complete change in the curriculum revision effort was made. The evaluation team of experts called for a halt to curriculum revision and for a fresh start to be made on the development of a completely new curriculum based on the principle of content integration. That new endeavour got underway the following year and is ongoing at the present time. The new effort is titled "Comprehensive National Curriculum" and is directed to the various levels of the primary schools.
Examination and Assessment reforms. The Assessment and Evaluation Unit (AEU) has been satisfactorily established and the Head of the AEU and her staff have been working with a spirit of commitment to put their Unit on as sound a footing as resources, knowledge and technology will allow. The Head has recently returned from completing a M.Sc. in her field in the U.S.A. The remaining two or three staff have been gaining inservice knowledge through training through short-term consultancies. Through their conscientious efforts the BNSE has been appreciably improved. As has been mentioned this is the examination which determines the achievement of primary school leavers in their learning of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies after having completed the eight grade levels of primary schooling. This determination of learning achievement in turn serves as a means of deciding, on the part of secondary school administrators, whether applicants satisfy the requirements for admission to particular secondary schools. The certificate received also serves as a credential for youth seeking low level job positions.
The BJAT was initiated as a result of the persuasion of World Bank officials working on BPEDP in an effort to put in place an instrument to evaluate the quality of education at the mid-point of primary schooling and have this instrument serve as a diagnostic test. Work is being done to improve the test, but the use of it as a diagnostic instrument has not been done so far.
Textbook. The problem of the suitability of textbooks for school children is a longstanding one. The persistent situation has been that the large majority of textbooks parents are required to buy for their children are foreign in content and cultural orientation. Besides during recent years some of these textbooks have become so expensive that many poor parents cannot afford to buy them. This leads to the other related problem - many children do not have the necessary textbooks from which to study and complete assignments, including homework.
Over the years successive attempts have been made to solve this longstanding problem. As far back as the 1940s, under the aegis of the Colonial Development and Welfare institution of the British government a supply of primary school English and Arithmetic textbooks of the Ballads series was shipped to Belize. The quantity was sufficient to allow individual children or pairs of children to have these basic textbooks to use at school. The one big shortcoming was that the books were for British children in British schools in Great Britain. After a period of time as these books ran their course the West Indian readers were introduced into Belizean schools. These were written by British textbook authors for West Indian children. These books were used in the non-Catholic schools mainly. The management of the Roman Catholic schools introduced an American Catholic reader for their schools as well as an American Mathematics series.

This trend has persisted up to the present, with some variation. Prior to the launching of the BPEDP there was a Ranfurly textbook scheme through which, with a grant from the European Community selected textbooks were bought by the Ranfurly Library Service in England and shipped to Belize for sale at cost to school children. The Ranfurly project was at closure point when the BPEDP came on stream. Under this latter project a textbook loan scheme was mounted. Using the same selection of textbooks as for the prior textbook project a supply was ordered and paid for from the BPEDP funds. Essentially the main procedure for getting the essential textbooks into the hands of school children was as follows:

    1. school principals were asked to apply for a certain quantity of the various textbooks according to their assessment of the economic situation of individual families;
    2. the manager of the Government Bookstore used the completed application forms to issue textbooks to schools through the District Education Officers;
    3. Principals were expected to loan the books to needy children at a very nominal charge of a dollar per year.

No systematic study has been made of the impact of the Textbook Loan Scheme of the BPEDP except that which was done through the Case Studies and Impact Evaluation (CSIE) done at some sixteen primary schools of which eleven reports were completed. In the synthesis report of the CSIE the assessment of the BPEDP textbook loan scheme is summarized as follows: "Between 20 and 25% of the children in these schools do not have the school books they are required to have, which puts them at a serious disadvantage side by side with more fortunate children. For if there are 30 children in a class there are likely to be between 5 and 8 children without books. This has to be an undesirable state of affairs. The textbook loan scheme is intended to remedy this situation but evidently it is not doing so…"

The Synthesis Report of the CSIE goes on to offer some of the reasons for the unsatisfactory situation mentioned above. They include:

    1. the failure to sell the scheme to all principals and staff of the schools;
    2. the failure to orientate those same personnel of the schools to how to use the textbook loan scheme in their schools;
    3. in some instances the loan scheme textbooks are not those being used in the schools;
    4. seemingly, some parents do not buy books for their children for socioeconomic reasons among whom there are those parents who do not put a significant value on the place of books in the education of their children.

However the textbook situation has improved over the past six or seven years and the textbook loan scheme has contributed to this improvement.
Planning and Management. Since the mid-term review of BPEDP in 1995 some significant shifts have taken place in the management structure of the Ministry of Education. With the change of government in 1998 there have been put in place new appointments at the top echelon including a newly elected Minister of Education and the appointment of a new Permanent Secretary and a new Chief Education Officer replacing the previous CEO who has been transferred to the position of Project Officer with his present role being largely to manage the Project Implementation Unit of BPEDP. The Planning Unit is now being led by a Director of Planning and Project while the Deputy Chief Education Officer who was responsible for Planning has been assigned to other responsibilities. The focus of the Planning Unit is at present that of establishing a strong Management Information System with a network of communication systems covering the entire formal educational system.
Despite the accomplishment at the primary education system relating to the drive to accomplish the objective of universal primary education the system is still not meeting satisfactorily the needs of Belize's non-English speaking children, which in other words, is the majority of Belizean children. This problem is compounded by the influx of Central American immigrants into the school system. One facet of this problem is that many school children still do not have access to a basic set of textbooks or an adequate supply of other learning materials, despite the mounting of a textbook loan scheme (which has now run its course).
Another drawback to progress is the lack of suitable instruments for the evaluation of the learning achievements of children in order to identify in a precise manner where the need for improvement lies. Along with this is the technical weakness of many teachers in the skills of educational measurement and evaluation. This latter weakness often results in significant errors in school-based assessment of learning achievement.
Finally, the capacity of the Ministry of Education to address the above-mentioned problems is limited by staff size, knowledge and budgetary resources.




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