Education Reform Bill Advances Despite Concerns Over Resource Allocation
Reform in the education sector was a major topic of discussion at Friday’s meeting of the House of Representatives, as a Bill was presented to increase the mandatory school age for children. The Education and Training Amendment Bill 2023, which would increase the mandatory school age for children from 14 to 16 years, came before the House of Representatives for its second reading. During the debate, Leader of the Opposition, Moses “Shyne” Barrow, said that he supported the Bill, in principle, but had major concerns about the government’s allocation of resources to bring about the desired effect.
Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “It is a noble intent to want to ensure that our youth stay in school but without the proper financial support for the vocational training hubs, the schools that have the high ratio of drop out then this bill will do nothing. It is similar to all of the infrastructure projects that the UDP started, the UDP found funding for and now the PUP goes around ribbon cutting. It will just be a papishow Madam Speaker. As we see right now, which is what I wanted to speak on the urgent adjournment but I will speak on the matter at the end of today’s house sitting Madam Speaker in keeping with your ruling. Again, we urge the government to be comprehensive in their attempts to move the country forward. We see similar deficient proposals in the judiciary where they changed the judiciary to model after the Eastern Caribbean judicial makeup yet our judiciary is woefully underfunded an in order for the new model to be implemented to work we need more funds. It’s the same thing with this. What is the cause of the students dropping out Madam Speaker ? The cause is lack of resources. So raising the age without providing the necessary resources to ensure that we stop the students from dropping out will not solve anything Madam Speaker. So again we support the idea of it but there is much to be desired.”
Prime Minister John Briceno weighed in on the issue, commending the Ministry of Education for the initiative and stressing the need for the reform. Briceno also chided the opposition for its inability to address the issue of school dropout rates despite having over ten years in government.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Madam Speaker I think that we need to commend what the Minister, the present Minister of Education and his team are doing. Because what is being proposed today is transformative. Transformative because we all recognize that a Belizean child at the age of 14 they really don’t know what is it that they want to do with their lives and many of them because yes of the economic challenges that their families might face are forced to go out to work. But this is not a problem that just started over the past three years. You had thirteen years to fix it and you did not.”
Former Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, said that the government’s targets are ambitious but he believes they are unrealistic and unattainable in the current economic climate.
Patrick Faber, Area Representative, Collet: “A move like the one that they were attempting – and I will get into whether we support it or not right now but a move like this is a big move it’s a humongous move for the country and a humongous move for education in this country. This is something that is very aspirational. In fact it is something that I embrace. We need to keep our children in school longer. We need to have them there up to age 16 but I have to call a spade a spade too. What is the influence ? What is the push ? Why is it that you’re putting these legislations and it’s making changes because it’s nothing new but you’re putting these things on the books when you know, when you are absolutely certain that the things you’re hoping to achieve by making these amendments cannot given the current resources that are allotted to and given the current make up of our system cannot sustain this kind of thing.”