Had it not been for COVID-19 the city streets would have been swarmed with students and teachers returning to school this morning. Unfortunately, this is not the case and for now, it is uncertain how soon students will be getting back into the classrooms. Today, Education Minister Patrick Faber accompanied by the Chief Education Officer, Dr. Carol Babb, and the Chief Executive Officer, Deborah Domingo addressed multiple issues on education and the way forward including the elevation of students to another class.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “As we inch our way further and further along the calendar year and toward this final phase of our school’s calendar year another pressing question at this time is what is the plan for promotion and graduation of students? For preschool students the Ministry’s recommendation is as such; those first year preschool students, that is those children who are three years old, should be promoted to the four year old year and those students who are four years old we’re recommending should receive their preschool certificates and transitioned into primary school. For primary school students and in accordance with education rule 128-2, all students from Infant One to Standard Five are expected to be promoted and schools are asked to provide special assistance for those students who require such during the upcoming school year. All standard six students who have met their school’s standards for primary certification and those who have reached fourteen years of age are expected to graduate from primary school in accordance with education rule 128-3. Now these particular rules always cause concern and I want to say for the record that the Ministry of Education believes in promoting the students yes but not just so. In fact you will note that I stress the point that special assistance ought to be provided for students who the teachers believe or the school believes need such assistance in order to be brought up to par as to where they are. As it relates to secondary school students our schools are encouraged to provide all first to third form students with sufficient opportunities to advance to the next level of education and to provide where it is necessary remedial support on the reopening of school. In other words we promote these students from first to second form if they are in first form, second to third form if they are in second form, third to fourth form if they’re in third form and once they get into that new class the remedial work of bringing them up to speed ought to be done post haste in order to ensure that they can cope with what is being taught at the new level which they have been promoted to.”
In addition to the measures of having students continuously engaged, Minister Faber says there will be no Primary School Examination but that those moving into high school will still have to be tested with the PSE material.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “Previously scheduled national and regional exams are also points of concerns and to this issue I now point the way forward. The Belize Junior Achievement Test the BJAT will not be administered this academic year but instead this exam will be used as a diagnostic tool for schools to use by administering it at the start of primary standard four. The Primary School Exam, the PSE, will not be administered this academic year. The already printed examination scripts instead will be given to high schools and be required for use in assessing the competence of their first form students so that targeted academic support can be provided to those who need it. At the secondary and tertiary levels Belize cannot participate in the 2020 sitting of Caribbean Examination Council’s CXC and CAPE exams as presently scheduled. Our ministry continues to be in dialogue with the stakeholders of the CXC and hope still to find a way forward that works for our country of Belize. Grants and scholarships that are dependent on the outcome of such exams are being looked at at this time and a mechanism is being explored for the award to those students who had registered for the required number of exams; the details of this will be provided shortly. So just to highlight again there will be no BJAT exam, there will be no PSE exam instead these exams will be used at the start of the next year of the child’s studies, the children’s studies so that they may be brought up to speed or at least the school can assess where they are and then put in intervention measures to bring them up to speed. CSEC and CAPE exams, high school and 6th form exams, the regional exams that we take are not going to continue as per schedule and we continue to work with CXC the Caribbean Examinations Council to find a way forward. Belizeans will know that as a result of passing six of these CSEC exams students previously qualified for tuition scholarships to junior college and the University of Belize and Galen I suppose but now we’re saying that that is going to be tough to do because we won’t have these CSEC exam results and so we’re saying that we’re reviewing this just to ensure that there is something coming in terms of supporting such awards and those details as I’ve said will be provided shortly.”
With the sudden closure of schools at a time when students were applying to secondary and tertiary institutions, Minister Faber explained that schools will need to extend their registration deadlines.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture: “Registration for the new school year also becomes an issue and to this end the Ministry of Education is requesting that all educational institutions extend their deadlines for registration and payment of school fees until circumstances improve. The Ministry also intends to continue to support students in need of assistance to attend high school, the high school subsidy program therefore will continue although our plan to expand the subsidy program this year to include all high school students attending government high schools from first form to fourth form will need to be revisited based on the economic feasibility as all knows the government is under serious financial crunch.”