Making Education Work For Belize



Our cause is Education. Our will is strong. Our commitment deep.

What Belize does the future hold? How can we shape and define that future? What role must our education system play in the realization of that future? How can we effectively and equitably identify and allocate the resources necessary to meet the inevitable demands of this future?

Education is generally viewed as a formalized process of the transfer of knowledge and skills within a society through established institutions of learning.

For Belize however, Education must have a wider and deeper meaning. One which challenges us to ensure that all our people are provided with an opportunity to acquire the capacity and attitudes for full and active participation in the development of our nation.

Education must not and cannot be an end in and of itself. It must provide us with a population that can find employment and create wealth. Such a trained population is indispensable to our goal of a modern growing economy.

Equally important is a strong commitment to an education system that promotes national pride, positive values for productive living, a strong work ethic, wholesome self-esteem and civic responsibility while cultivating and instilling in our people a strong sense of confidence and independence along with a spirit of inquiry and openness.

Older models of education were based on a guiding principle which confined education to a fixed period in a person’s life such as 5 to 18. This meant that education was structured around the primary and secondary levels.

Over the years new dynamic models have emerged that embrace the philosophy of education as a life- long process, a life-long search for and acquisition of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes. This philosophy “quality education for life-long learning” has no doubt been sharply influenced by the dynamics of the new economy which demands greater efficiency and competitiveness in the job market.

The education we provide today must therefore equip our people at any and every stage of their lives with the tools they need to create value out of that education. It must be relevant to the needs of our public and private sectors and it must train our people to be productive and engaged citizens of Belize and the world.

This philosophy and vision is grounded in the simple yet fundamental truth that the ultimate goal of education is improving quality of life. The more knowledge, information and skills you possess, the greater the likelihood of you leading a more productive and meaningful life and the more likely you are to contribute positively to the development and upliftment of your family, community and country.

Access, Equity and Quality are central to our Education Agenda from Pre-School to University. All our people wherever they live and whatever their ethnicity, religious preference, political affiliation, gender or economic status MUST have access to quality education.

MAKING EDUCATION WORK FOR BELIZE shall be a national priority for the next Government of the People’s United Party. 

To Make Education Work for Belize, the PUP has developed a clear, practical plan of action underpinned by specific targets, credible strategies, a realistic time schedule, assigned areas of responsibility and identified sources of required financing.

Government oversees the delivery of education by almost 5700 teachers in approximately 630 educational institutions to some 102,000 students. Over $268M was spent on education in 2018 amounting to 26.7% of the Government’s total recurrent expenditure.

Yet, despite this relatively high overall ratio of expenditures, Government has presided over a striking deterioration in access to and quality of education provided at all levels in Belize over the past decade.

While the Ministry of Education (MOE) champions the increase in the number of licensed teachers, the actual number of teachers in the classroom has decreased.

While the number of schools has increased, the number of students enrolled at the pre-primary, primary and secondary have all fallen precipitously. Since 2014, the pre-school net enrollment fell from 42.7% to 37.7% in 2018. Since 2012, while the student population eligible for primary school education has increased by 17%, the net enrollment rate for primary schools across Belize has fallen every single year from 95.3% in 2012 to 79.2% in 2018.

Similarly, since 2012, while the student population eligible for secondary school education has also increased by 17%, the net enrollment rate for secondary schools has remained flat over the same period, at 50.4% in 2012, increasing to 53% in 2016 but falling back to 50.1% in 2018, its lowest point in almost a decade. Simply put, our children are not going to school. It is no surprise that juvenile delinquency and crime is on the rise. Too many of our young people are not in school.

For those that are going to school, the data shows that student performance is mediocre at best with no discernible improvement in levels of student performance between 2013 and 2017 for English and Math. By standing still we are in fact falling behind.

There are clearly many problems that exist within our education system. The answer cannot be to just thoughtlessly throw more money at the problems, but rather to take a strategic and smarter approach to the delivery of education in Belize.

Through the International Development Bank (IDB) funded education sector reform program, the Ministry of Education (MOE) changed the formula for financing high school education. Non-public schools which are primarily grant-aided denominational schools were switched to a per-capita based form of financing. Under this scheme, these schools are paid a flat sum of roughly $1500 per student if the school accepts students with a Primary School Examination (PSE) grade below 60% and/or is from a district with a higher poverty rate than where the school is located. The school is also paid less if a student repeats a grade and schools are incentivized to remove remediation or preparatory forms for underperforming students coming out of primary school.

The effect of this incentive structure has been perverse. In Belize City, for example, enrollment at the few historically above average performing schools has increased dramatically with wholly deleterious student/teacher ratios while enrollment at other school has correspondingly fallen significantly to the point that these latter schools are facing serious financial challenges to keeping their doors open. Further, there are no longer any prep forms for underperforming students transitioning to high school. Because schools are paid less for students that repeat, it is no surprise that the repetition rate has fallen. At the same time, overall enrollment has fallen and there has been no improvement in student performance.

In short, the MOE has been wasting money focusing on the wrong objectives and the wrong outcomes using perverse incentive structures leading to perverse results.

A PUP administration will be student centered and focus on student learning outcomes not on administrative control or teacher licenses.

Administration of education must be more efficient. Our goal is to reduce administrative costs and expenses from its current 12% of the education budget to 5%. This will yield savings of some $20M annually.

Next, while we have 5700 teachers, we have almost 1200 non-teachers employed at the MOE. At present, this means that 17% of the education workforce are not educators. We need less bureaucracy and our goal is to reduce the non-educator workforce to 10% of the total education workforce which will yield annual savings of $20M.

The PUP government’s overall efforts to curb corruption and grow the economy at an annual rate of not less than 4% will lead to further savings and recurrent tax revenues from which we will allocate an additional $60M to education.
With an available $100M annually from savings and revenue the PUP will be able to fully finance its Plan of
Action for 2020 to 2025:

  • Free Education from Pre-School to 6th Form
  • Universal Pre-School Education
  • 100%Trained Teachers
  • 4 to 4th laptop Computer Program
  • FAIR ACCESS $5M Education Loan Fund
  • EQUAL OPPORTUNITY $3M Rural Education Grant Fund
  • National HEALTHY START feeding program
  • 20% Teacher Salary increase
  • FREE TEXTBOOK program expansion to High School
  • Expansion of African and Mayan History program
  • Civics education at all levels

Appropriate incentive mechanisms will be introduced with a view to increase teacher attendance and to enhance pedagogical training. These incentives will be linked to learning outcomes particularly in the areas of Literacy, Math, Science, Engineering, and Technology. Incentives will include recognition but extend to appropriate grants and bonuses.

Schools will no longer be funded by the current per-capita based formula. Instead, funding will revert to teacher remuneration- based financing with incentive mechanisms such as performance-based grants linked to capacity building (principals, school boards, parent and student associations), management of inputs that affect learning outcomes, and ultimately student performance.

To limit unnecessary capital expenditures and at the same time more fully and efficiently utilize existing resources, existing school buildings will be utilized for further learning programs.

The use of technology in education, for example, the free ONLINE KHAN ACADEMY, will be explored and adopted to enable and facilitate learning curriculum remotely to reduce the per student cost of education at all levels.

The goal of a PUP Government in Education is to efficiently allocate the necessary resources with appropriate incentive mechanisms to align and streamline the roles and objectives of all the key stakeholders-students, teachers, parents, management, communities and Government- with a view to not only deliver quality education but also enhance overall student learning using measurable results not only in increased enrollment but more importantly in clear, improved student learning outcomes.

At the Early Childhood Education level, recognizing that the early years of a child’s life are the critical, defining and formative ones, we will develop a clear, rational policy plan for the establishment and operation of Pre-Schools in Belize providing supervision, standards, training and the required resources.

All children should have an opportunity to be in school from the age of 2. To this end, we will embark on a program to bring Universal Pre-Primary Education free of cost to the children of Belize within 5 years. Our goal is to take the net enrollment from its current unacceptable rate of 37.7% to 100% over the next 5 years of a PUP administration. We must move boldly and aggressively on this issue. This program will include provision of basic nutrition to the child at pre-primary level.

Currently the cost of pre-primary and primary education is some $1700 per student. The current pre-primary student population is 18,600 of which only 7,400 are enrolled in school. The annual cost of Universal pre-primary education would be an additional $19M. With our cost saving education financing policy, we can meet this cost from the existing education budget.

This is an investment we must make and it is one which will reap dividends at each and every other level of the education system.

We will aggressively and effectively advance our policy of attaching pre-schools to primary schools across the country and will ensure that our rural communities have full and equal access to quality pre-primary education.

We will also significantly expand the pre-primary education curriculum to ensure that it is comprehensive and technologically friendly. It must include reading, visual arts, dancing, planting, music, civics and an introduction to technology. 

In many respects this is the “Root Fault Line” of our education crisis. Our teachers are not empowered to be bold, creative, critical thinkers who will passionately motivate, inspire and uplift our students. Too many of our teachers feel undervalued and unappreciated. 

We must do everything we can to attract the best and the brightest into the teaching profession. We must provide attractive financial and social benefits to a new cadre of young teachers who will understand their role and purpose as nation builders.

The PUP is committed to working with the Belize National Teacher’s Union (BNTU) and School Managements to implement a 20% salary increase to teachers over the period 2020 to 2025. Such an increase must be tied to mutually agreed upon measurable results and student learning outcomes.

Our policy is to develop a comprehensive year-round teacher training program which will seek to ensure that principals and teachers have ongoing access to new and relevant tools and techniques aimed at enhancing their capacity and effectiveness to deliver quality education to our students. We will have 100% trained teachers in our education system by 2025.

We recognize that our Principals and Managers are on the frontline of education and are critical to the success of our educational institutions. New creative incentives both financial and non-financial will be offered to attract high quality performing Principals and Managers. There must be a fully developed program in Leadership and Administrative Training at the Ministry of Education.

To prepare learners for the knowledge economy and global society there is an urgent need to adopt a pedagogical model in which teachers are no longer simply the source of knowledge but also facilitators of learning in an environment that is student centered, knowledge rich, innovative, collaborative, and where life- long learning is emphasized.

To uphold this new paradigm, teachers must be re-educated through structured ongoing professional development. This will require the establishment of a TEACHER AND LEARNING INSTITUTE which promotes excellence in teaching and provides professional development.

The effective management of schools requires a strong, transparent and clearly defined relationship between and among Managements, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), and the Ministry of Education.

Also of critical importance is Community Support Services which help to build linkages and create a safer and more responsive school environment. Police Liaison Officers, for example, need to be more visible and readily available to Principals and Management.

As our schools and communities grow so too does the demand for school Counsellors. We must have trained, certified Counsellors in all of our schools. The emotional needs of our students are critically important and directly linked to their academic success.

The PUP believes in inclusion. Those among us with special needs and those diagnosed to be differently abled have every right to a quality education and deserve every opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they require to lead full, meaningful and productive lives. 

Our education system must not continue to marginalize and fail these individuals.

We will implement new Special Education policies and laws aimed at achieving this objective of inclusion and respect for those with special needs.

We will promote teacher training in Special Education particularly in the areas of speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

We will also hire and train additional Itinerant teachers and develop a more effective and inclusive transition program from primary school to high school as well as to the Institutes for technical and vocational training and established apprenticeship programs.

The National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NARCIE) will be better resourced and given priority attention.

The referral process must be reformed and made more effective. Additional field officers are required to visit rural communities and homes to provide badly needed support to our special needs students and their families.

We will also hire and train Diagnostics and Curriculum Development Officers to ensure that our children are being properly diagnosed academically and are being provided with life skills training.

Higher education is both a public and private good. Both the individual and society have certain expectations of higher education because of the time, money and trust invested in it. For us here in Belize, higher education must fulfill three primary objectives: workforce development, social mobility and a more informed and engaged citizenry.

Higher education enhances the earnings of individuals and contributes to economic development. Higher education makes a significant contribution to reduction in absolute as well as relative poverty. It is related to human development indicators which reflect other dimensions of human poverty as it significantly reduces infant mortality and increases life expectancy.

Sustainable socio-economic development implies that education systems focus on human capital as well as human development, on economic growth as well as poverty reduction, on modern technology as well as traditional methods, and on global as well as local concerns. Policy makers must not only provide for basic education but also help to strengthen higher education. This will benefit society at large and have a positive effect on economic growth and development.

The key components of a higher education system include: Governance, Finance, Curricula and Research.

GOVERNANCE: A higher education policy grounded in a Higher Education Act is of critical importance as is the need to review, revise and modernize the University of Belize Act to ensure that the vision and goals of our national university are aligned with our country’s national development goals.

A National Council for Higher Education will be established to serve as a “buffer” between the higher education community and the Ministry of Education and to effectively and efficiently manage higher education in an accountable and transparent manner free of political interference.

FINANCE: In Belize, the bulk of financing for higher education has come from the government with tuition and fees only minimally making up the difference. The reality is that faced with a dramatic expansion in the higher education system to meet the demands of a young population, the government of Belize has been rendered incapable of developing a sustainable and effective higher education financing model.

In financing higher education, both the government and the higher education community must work together to ensure that while institutions must be fully accountable for the government funds they receive, they must also retain full institutional autonomy.

The PUP is committed to Free Education from Pre-School to 6th Form. At the 6th form level we estimate that this will require additional financing of some $10M annually which can be met from the existing budget under our new proposed education financing formula.

The University of Belize is our National University and the flagship of our education system. In the last decade funding to UB has increased by only $1M from $10M in 2008 to $11M in 2019. This has severely undermined the University of Belize’s ability and capacity to grow and develop and is unacceptable.

The PUP is committed to increasing the annual subvention to UB by $1M each year for the period 2020 to 2025 until it reaches $15M. With increased resources will come the requirement for greater accountability, better quality teachers, improved student performance, and a stronger demonstrated commitment to national service and development.

The PUP will also establish the FAIR ACCESS $5M INTEREST FREE EDUCATION LOAN FUND FOR HIGHER EDUCATION with a particular emphasis on Information Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, Math and Science education.

CURRICULA: Curricula in higher education must be rationalized. Institutions will only offer those professional programs for which they can demonstrate a strong curriculum, adequate financial resources, and qualified teaching staff.

The curricula must be relevant to national development and linked to the policy goals of the country. There is an urgent need to streamline both associate and bachelor degree programs with a view to decrease the number of credit hours students must earn to receive certification.

We must also accomplish two very important higher education objectives over the next 5 years. Full operationalization of the National Transfer and Articulation Agreement (NTAA); and Accreditation of our National University, the University of Belize.

RESEARCH: Research is the hallmark of a credible University. For a University to be recognized as a leading agency of change and reform it must be engaged in meaningful, collaborative and productive research for national dialogue and good.

One of the core functions of the University of Belize must be to contribute to the creation, sharing and evaluation of knowledge through research, teaching and learning. The University of Belize is charged with the responsibility to promote a culture of research, link research with teaching and learning, strengthen the articulation between the research system at UB and the national development agenda, and promote applied research.

In the absence of a culture of research, it is important to facilitate the environment and develop the infrastructure necessary for research to become a core function of higher education in Belize. 

The PUP has always recognized that human capital is critical to the economic growth and social development of Belize. The PUP has a deep commitment to technical vocational education and training.

During the period 1998 to 2008 this commitment manifested itself in the construction of Institutes for Technical Vocational Education and Training (ITVET) in all districts and the restructuring of TVET programs and curricula using market driven criteria aimed at promoting revenue generating opportunities to Belizeans throughout the country.

The next PUP government will build on this foundation which has been badly neglected and eroded over the past decade of UDP mismanagement. Our objective must be to equip our people with the technical and vocational skills and knowledge necessary for them to find employment or to create employment opportunities for themselves.

Today there are only some 730 students enrolled in our ITVET’s. This is shameful and unacceptable.

The PUP will invest in technical and vocational education and revitalize this important component of our education system. We will match training programs to the economic priorities of the country and immediately re-establish the strong working partnership that existed between the public and private sectors through the National Council for Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET).

The PUP will:

  • properly equip and resource all existing ITVET’s
  • establish an ITVET Scholarship Fund to fully train 100 skilled workers each year
  • promote new technology as an integral component of TVET
  • provide new opportunities for ongoing training and upgrading of technical vocational educators
  • re-establish the Belize Association for Career and Technical Education (BACTE)
  • expand and upgrade all existing apprenticeship programs
  • employ career guidance counsellors to be attached to each ITVET in every district
  • re-establish the Rural Education Agriculture Program (REAP) as a part of the primary and secondary school curriculum. 

The PUP recognizes that Culture is inextricably linked to education. Culture is Education.

For us in the PUP, Culture is about self-love. It is about national identity learning. The Root-line orientation of our cultural education begins with African and Mayan history. This is the foundation of our national identity.

The next period is that of resistance from 1491 to 1981. This is the story of our people forging a new cultural and social space in our sovereign and independent nation state of Belize.

We are now in a period of contemporary thinking in a global space with Belize in the heart of Central America and the Caribbean struggling to make good on the promise and hope of Independence, and working to co-exist with our sister nations of Central America and the Caribbean.

The PUP will:

  • Once again give Culture national priority attention
  • Invest in and revitalize the National Institute for Culture and History (NICH)
  • Expand the teaching of African and Mayan History
  • Establish a National Museum of Natural Science, Anthropology and Archaeology
  • Establish new archaeology parks in Toledo, Cayo, Corozal and Orange Walk
  • Create the annual Belize Arts Fair focusing on dance, drama, music, arts, craft, books and writing
  • Establish an ART FUND to make available micro-credit to innovative and creative cultural projects and economic initiatives
  • Establish a Culture Heritage Pension Fund to support artists who have contributed significantly to Belizean history and culture. 

Technology creates greater ACCESS to education.
Technology improves the QUALITY of education.
Technology promotes increased EQUITY in Education.

Our goal must be to build a technology infrastructure throughout our education system that brings our classrooms to life.

For this generation of students, the internet is like drinking water. It is essential for life and you must consume a lot each day.

Every student and teacher in every school in every city, town or village must have full access to high speed internet services available to them on an appropriate digital device.

The PUP will establish the 4 TO 4TH LAPTOP COMPUTER PROGRAM providing a laptop computer to every student and teacher from standard 4 to 4th form across the country.

Inside the classroom technology will be applied to stimulate minds and feed our students appetite for visual learning. Technology must be used to promote and advance discussion, debate, creative design and critical thinking.

The use of technology in education to enable learning from home or remote areas of the country can serve to expand access and reduce costs.

We must also use technology to engage the education community more effectively and efficiently. Through technology we can improve communication, the flow of information and the exchange of ideas between and among policy makers, managers, principals, teachers, parents, students, and community leaders.

Technology is what we make of it. We must embrace its use and we must be bold, creative and progressive in its application to the needs and requirements of our 2020 Education System. 

It is time for us to re-evaluate and re-think the entire purpose and structure of the Ministry of Education. The MOE is too bureaucratic, too top-heavy, too inefficient, too wasteful, too slow and too conservative.

The next PUP government will form a team of creative thinkers who are bold, passionate, smart and progressive to reform and advance our Education Policy Agenda. This team will come from the public and private sectors as well as our social sector partners.

With over 100,000 students enrolled in our education system from pre-school to university, we have a unique opportunity to shape the future, change the future, build the future.
We must not lose this opportunity!
We must not waste this opportunity! 

We must make education work for Belize!