The Ministry of Education continues consultations with stakeholders to reform the curriculum from preschool to high school. The tour has given teachers from around the country an opportunity to express their concerns to the ministry. During a Zoom interview with Love News, the President of the Belize National Teachers Union, Elena Smith, explained that teachers have been receptive, however, some are skeptical of whether they should believe the ministry’s proposals.
Elena Smit, President, Belize National Teachers’ Union: “Most of the schools, well most of the districts, sorry, that we have visited thus far, the responses have been quite positive. Of course we do have some concerns that teachers have shared and we do have, you know, persons, administrators, teachers, who are sceptical and are not sure whether they should believe the minister or the ministry or whether they should look forward to any real reforms and that is expected. You know, not everybody would fully embrace something and people, because of their experience, might not want to believe what they are being told. But for the most part, as I said, the feedback has been positive. Our teachers are particularly satisfied with the fact that, we have raised with the ministry the fact that it is time that we start to lessen the load on teachers and instead of having teachers having to do these units every year and having to be spending 6 – 8 hours on the weekends to do lesson plans, that there can be a bank where we can put all of these excellent lesson plans in the various subject areas that teachers can go to that bank and they can get samples of lessons that they can use and it will minimise the planning time and they can just adjust those lesson plans to suit their students. You know so, you would have an excellent Science lesson on a topic that you will be teaching. You go and you download that and you make adjustments to the activities to match your current students and then the unit plans, same thing. You know. They will have teachers come together who are what we call experts in those subject areas, Math, Science, Language, you know because of their years of experience or even their training and those teachers will be working together to put the units together.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Louis Zabaneh, stated that the curriculum would be reviewed and streamlined. Earlier in the week, Dr. Zabaneh said the focus would be geared at equipping students with the knowledge they need to excel at a tertiary level institution and in the workplace.
Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, Science & Technology and Culture: “So we’re indeed, we’re in the middle of this work where we have our curriculum reform steering committee finalising our National Curriculum Plan. It’s a framework that will guide all the various syllabi for each subject from preschool all the way to highschool. So we anticipate that by the end of May, that National Curriculum Framework will be completed. We’re now putting together a large number, over 100 working groups that will be focused on these subjects, starting in May and working through the summer. At the same time, we’re also looking at creating a virtual bank for lesson plans so our teachers don’t have to spend 3 – 4 hours at night toiling on creating these lesson plans. But not just the lesson plans but also the assessments that go with those lessons that are now focused on competency not just on memorisation so along with that, in parallel with that, we will also be having, retraining of our teachers so that they understand now what it means to have a competency based curriculum. What it means to undertake teaching in terms of project and problem based learning. Those types of things now, those are the things that we are now engaged in and so we’re in the middle, middle of all of that right now.”
Ninety percent of all schools have been given the green light to return to face to face learning. A full return for the six hundred and five schools across the country is set for August of this year. Currently, schools have adopted a hybrid approach to learning, however, Minister of Education Francis Fonseca says that a full return to in-person learning is his ministry’s aim. According to Fonseca, there are two main challenges that were created by the pandemic that his ministry is addressing.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, E-Governance, Science & Technology: “The whole idea behind curriculum reform is to provide, you know, a more better quality education to our students. So the whole thing will run together, parallel. We intend to unveil the new curriculum again, in August as well and that new curriculum, you know, will be much more effective curriculum, a much more focused, much more targeted curriculum and so that as well will provide us with an opportunity to focus more on recovery. So I see the two things as being parallel, working together. We’re looking at fundamental reform. You know, the curriculum is absolutely overloaded. It’s absolutely overloaded and we intend to reduce, what they call, learning outcomes. I’ve talked about this already and make sure that our students are learning what matters. It’s critical. We can’t, in a country like Belize, we can’t lose sight of the fact that education has to be tied to national development. It has to be tied to economic development, to the national development of our country. So we have to be educating our people to be a part of growing Belize, of developing Belize and equipping them with the skills, the knowledge, the information, the values, the attitudes they need to be effective participants in the development of Belize. So we have to have a much more focused and targeted curriculum and that’s going to be the objective and I think Belizeans, I think will embrace the curriculum when we unveil it in a few weeks’ time.
The full return of in-person learning will be rolled out simultaneously with the Ministry’s curriculum reform agenda.