Minister of Education Francis Fonseca has called off the PSE and BJAT for the upcoming school year. Many anticipate that standardized tests will be done away with altogether. However, there are the CSEC and CAPE exams, which are regional. When we asked Minister of Youth Kevin Bernard about how he feels about these tests, he was a bit more circumspect, compared to his stance on the local exams.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Youth, Sports and E Governance: “I believe that we have to look at it in all angles right because yes we are looking at it from our Belizean scope but if it’s required in the Caribbean then those students who want to further their studies in the Caribbean then they know that they will need to take that exam, they will need to excel they will need to do what they need to do but we must nurture our young people and not put fear in them in saying you know what if you don’t take this exam now you are not going to go into your high school or sixth form here in Belize but if you know you want to further your studies outside of the country then that’s a requirement then that should be part of the requirement. It’s not to say that – our Caribbean brother institutions may likely start to think around the same route, we don’t know but for now in Belize I am saying if our young Belizean student needs to go from one level to the next that shouldn’t be a barrier to them that should be something that you look at what they do throughout the years, you make that assessment and then you give them the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition Shyne Barrow says that while education reforms are necessary, the system also has to meaningfully address the barriers that prevent students from succeeding.
Moses “Shyne” Barrow: Leader of the Opposition: “I would defer to the experts. I don’t know what the experts are saying, what the educational experts are saying. I know there are some people that are against it and there are some people that may be for it. I am concerned that we don’t want to lower the standard of education I think that is something we have to be very careful about but where there are deficiencies in the current system then maybe we can find a way to correct it without lowering the standards because we want our children, we want our education system to be par with the highest global standards. I know Belize has produced some of the most brilliant minds, I know anybody that leaves Belize and goes to other nations usually they skip ahead because the Belize education system had always been such a high standard of excellence. So we have to be careful is all I’m saying. I don’t want us to just deregulate and move to a place where we’re not pushing because we need to push. Part of excellence, part of superiority and getting to new levels, unlocking new levels is a push, there is pressure in that, pressure makes diamonds so I just think that we need to be careful that we don’t altogether erase a high standard for our education system. But I am open to what the experts have to say and open to reform. I think we can always create a better system but that system must include a high standard of excellence and then we as a government, we as stakeholders need to do what we need to do to ensure that our children are prepared, to ensure that our children have the tools and the resources that they need in order to meet that high standard. It is not to bring the standard down because we’re failing in other social areas which prevent our children from being able to participate on that high level so we have to look at all of that. So removing the standard, removing the requirements that you have to work hard, you have to study hard, you have to give your all so that you can reach this certain level again I’m not saying now, I’m not saying yes I’m saying reform is always welcomed and so we need to be able to do it in a way where we keep high standards but maybe we remove certain road blocks.”
As part of system reforms, Minister of State Doctor Louis Zabaneh has called for thirty minutes of homework for primary school students and an hour for high schoolers.