World Bank Report Highlights Weakness in Belize’s Education Sector: Minister Acknowledges Challenges

World Bank Report Highlights Weakness in Belize’s Education Sector: Minister Acknowledges Challenges

Yesterday, we told you of the World Bank Report that was presented in San Ignacio.  The report highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of Belize’s government, its operations and outputs in several sectors.  One such sector that they wrote about was education.  According to the World Bank, the investments in education are not being reflected in the outputs.  The report says there is an inadequate averaging shown in core subjects.  Minister of State in Finance, Christopher Coye referred to this part of the report, saying that while it stings, they must be able to look at it objectively.

Christorpher Coye, Minister of State, Ministry of Finance: “In the case of education Belize as a country spends a high percentage of its total public expenditures on education but we’re not getting the results. Consistent with the findings of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, what we’re seeing is notwithstanding the level of expenditures, the relative level of expenditures comparative to other countries in the region the learning outcomes are certainly sub-par and that in part has to do with the low quality of education that is being given. The teachers play a role in that and so we have to look at how do we improve the quality of education being provided by improving the quality of teaching that is being given by the teachers. So that is something that comes out very clearly in the review but also it comes out in the Millennium Challenge Corporation assessment as well. So that’s something that we have to look very deeply into how do we train teachers better and how do we improve the quality of education in a way that addresses education, especially post-primary education, that meets labor market demands for the country. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Prime Minister John Briceno weighed in on the World Bank’s views and says that while it may be a hard pill to swallow for educators, they need to do more to ensure that the money being pumped into the education sector is churning out productive citizens. 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well that’s why we sat down with the MCC when they came to us and said okay we need to analyze what are your needs and we immediately said we don’t need to analyze we know what are our needs. One of them was education because we’ve been seeing that year after year successive governments are pumping more and more money, investing more money in education but what we’re getting in return is not justified. So we have to see what’s going wrong and one of the issues that the MCC have been pointing out is that we need to do more teacher training. That we need to work more with our teachers to ensure that we can give the proper training to our students. And I don’t want the teachers to think that I’m saying this negatively but it’s something positive when we want to offer you more training to be on top of your game, to ensure that the students can learn, to look at what you’re doing in education, how we can change education to ensure that the students that we graduate in the future are students that can find a job in the economy. The economy is changing. Yes every agriculture is growing, tourism but so is the services. So we have to stay on top. We have to stay on top and so we agree with the IMF and that’s where we’re working along with the teachers union, along with the public servants or public officers and the Ministry to ensure that we could make the necessary adjustments.” 

Briceno noted that he does concede that the blame cannot be solemnly placed on teachers but on the socio-economic issues being faced by several Belizeans. He says that parents need to do more and be more engaged in their children’s lives. 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “We recognize that. That’s why we’ve been saying that we need to be able to eliminate poverty in this country. We accept and agree with the teachers that are saying that. That many of our children do not have the necessary support at home and so it’s unfair to expect it’s only the teachers. This is something that the ministry, the teachers and the families we need to work together. So what have we done ? We have started to roll out the free education and we’re doing it through the government schools. So the government schools high schools in Belize are providing complete free education, we pay their tuition and all their fees and in some instances even uniforms and books we give to these kids. And now this year this new financial year we’re going to include ten more schools. So we’re trying to address that issue. We raised the minimum wage from $3.50 thereabout to now $5.00 that is our step that we’re going in the right direction to address the very same issue, the issue of poverty that affects everyone in this country.”

Briceno added that the government continues to actively work with the Belize National Teachers Union to improve the education sector

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