Imagine having a child go through school without fully grasping the basics in education or without being properly assessed. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to imagine because it is happening right here in Belize. After listening to several concerns of teachers, Love News learnt that when it comes to grades, students don’t ever have to worry about getting a zero for not studying or not handing in an assignment because the education system does not allow teachers to give a zero. Teachers are told to manipulate grades so they do not reflect failure. Love News spoke to the President of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), Senator Elena Smith, who confirmed this to be the case for school influenced by the public system.
President of BNTU – Senator Elena Smith: “When a child doesn’t do work and you give that child a fifty or sixty, whatever is the minimum weight to say you did nothing but I will still give you fifty because I can’t give you zero, the policy is that. Then what are we saying to these children? What are we teaching them? That you know what I don’t have to work I will still get a fifty or sixty. Some of these policies are by schools, some of them are by management and some of these policies in terms of what teachers can and cannot do or what schools can do comes from the Ministry and so when you have it handed down to you there is nothing that you can do as a school or a manager because it comes from the Ministry. It has to be that the school should be able to speak up against these things because you are doing a disservice to a child by giving a child free grades, by promoting a child who is not making the marks. All you are doing is promoting somebody who is really and truly isn’t coping so what happens when that child completes Std. 6 and goes to high school? How will that child cope and what happens when that child leaves school and goes into the job market? Goes into the community? How will that child cope? And so we are creating a lot of the issues we see as a country, the social issues that we have, some of those are by our own creation because of the system that we have. You hear people talk about the system and the system and it is true but who is looking at those things or how seriously are we looking at those things to make the proper change to ensure that when our students leave either a class or a level at school that these children leave with the necessary information that will be able to help them be able to go to the next level.”
The grading system is one of several issues that the BNTU faces; the other has to do with their classrooms and the lack of funding to assist them. President of the BNTU, Elena Smith brought to our attention that at the start of each school year, teachers take out hundreds of dollars out of their personal monies to decorate their classroom with posters and signs that the Ministry of Education has deemed mandatory.
President of BNTU – Senator Elena Smith: “You would recall last year that we sent out a press release saying that our teachers would not be purchasing any classroom supplies for that school year because it is not their responsibility. Again, the rules are very clear and we keep saying that when it’s convenient we want to enforce the rules on teachers but we don’t enforce the rules on management who have responsibilities so we said that year that teachers are not required to and we were saying to them do not spend out of pocket for your classroom. Unfortunately because of the kind of job that we have and a lot of times despite what is reasonable our teachers really and truly care for their students and because of that love for what they do and the love for their children because the children are innocent teachers do go and buy things for the classroom, even when we say don’t they still did it and so it is quite difficult to get all teachers to do that, really and truly after so many years. Everywhere you go: Christmas break, Easter break, Summer break, you’re watching a movie, you go through a book, you go to a store, you see something you know what I can use this for my classroom, I can use this for this and so you are always collecting things, saving things, buying things because it is the nature of our job. I would like for somebody to show me which another person who does another work has to provide the tools for his or her job.”
Senator Smith says she is scheduled to meet with the Ministry of Education on adjusting some policies but it is highly unlikely that these issues will be tabled.