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Paradigm shift in Education

The Ministry of Education is undergoing a paradigm shift in its curriculum, where Belizean studies will be integrated into the different subjects. This morning there was a short ceremony to launch the project. Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber was the keynote speaker.

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister: “Let me say for me that this is a great event but it is not a on off event. It’s good to be here this morning but it is not about just today and that is what is so good about what we’re doing here. It is a very important subject matter, Belizean studies and I’m very elated that we’re not deeming it Belizean History as you’ve heard because that can get very ticklish and put us in a box. Belizean studies then must encompass that history but it must encompass everything else, and I won’t go through those details again, you’ve seen the twelve questions, you’ve seen how all-encompassing in terms of where we want to go as a Belizean society taking our place here in Belize but also taking our place in the regional and international scene is what this curriculum aims to do and it’s gives us an opportunity- I must commend those who are the designers, it give us an opportunity for that curriculum to be very dynamic.”

John Newport, Director of Quality Assurance Development Services at the Ministry of Education spoke of the initiative.

John Newport, Director of QUADS: “What Belizean studies is is an attempt to make sure that all high school students leave high school with a deep understanding and appreciation for their country and so we started off perhaps with an idea that it would be mostly history but then we very quickly realized that if you’re going to appreciate your country you need to understand how lots of things fit together. So you can’t really understand the history without understanding geography and the environment, you can’t understand politics without economics, so what it is is an integrated subject but it is based around 12 key questions that we hope the lessons will answer for students. So one question related to the environment, one question related to society, one question related to sovereignty and so on. A lot of the curriculums that we now have were developed in the 1990s and sometimes even before and society has changed and we all know that one of the things that has changed in society is the level of social violence and so the curriculum has to adapt to that and Belizean studies is one way of adapting to that. We’ll also develop a four year life skills curriculum for secondary school students but I think at a deeper level you continually need to rethink your curriculum to say ‘is it still relevant?’ and relevant to two things. “Is it still meaningful to all students?” are their needs and aspirations being met? Does your secondary school student sit and think ‘this is really important?’ or does the secondary school student sit in school and say ‘I don’t see how this relates to me?’ and we have to make sure that the curriculum we have they’re running to the lessons because it relates to them. And then at a different level and as a Government we have to say ‘how can we make sure that the curriculum means that we are producing citizens that will meet the needs of sustainable development, they will be the people who carry forward the development of the country, make sure that we are thriving in the mid twenty first century and beyond.”

St. John’s College has a similar curriculum in place, Yasser Musa, Head of the History Department at SJC, shared more about their curriculum

Yasser Musa – Head of History Department, SJC: “Amazingly at SJC on this day this is the 5th year where SJC has rolled out something similar, not the exact thing but we will make adjustments and follow this national curriculum without our own design because the idea is that other schools do their own thing but that we just use the portal as a hub a kind of a mother ship if you want to look at it like that. I have to say that our school history is regarded as something dynamic, as something innovative, something where the students feel as if they are involved in the learning process an so it’s not this old school idea where things are boring and so because we use a project based system where they develop projects. Yesterday for example we had this creativity award where you could see the things they made so that is another level of learning where they are active in the production of their ideas.”

Newport said that there is a website on the studies where the students can access the materials. Newport added that the Ministry is working on developing an app that students will be able to access from their phone.  Today’s launch was followed by a people’s dialogue, which will be conducted in other districts to help shape the curriculum.