The Ministry of Education is continuing its consultations with stakeholders to reform the school curriculum from preschool to secondary school. The tour gave teachers across the country the opportunity to voice their concerns to the ministry. During a Zoom interview with Love News, Belize National Teachers Union President Elena Smith explained that teachers have been receptive, however, some are skeptical about 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’ve visited so far, the responses have been pretty positive. Of course, we have some concerns that teachers have shared and we have, you know, some people, administrators, teachers, who are skeptical and don’t know if they should believe the minister or the ministry or if they should expect real reform and that is what is expected. You know, not everyone would completely accept something and people, because of their experience, might not want to believe what they are told, but for the most part, as I said, the feedback has been positive. Our teachers are particularly pleased with the fact that, we have raised with the ministry that it is time we started to lighten the load on teachers and instead of having teachers having to do these units every year and having to pass 6 – 8 hours on weekends end to make lesson plans, that there can be a bank where we can put all these great lesson plans in the different subjects that teachers can go into that bank and they can get sample lessons that they can use and it will minimize planning time and they can simply adjust these lesson plans to suit their students. You know, you would have a great science lesson on a subject that you will be teaching. You will download that and adjust the activities to match your current students and then the unit plans, same thing. You know. They will bring together teachers who are what we call experts in these areas, math, science, language, you know because of their years of experience or even their training and these teachers will work together to put the units together.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Louis Zabaneh, said the program would be reviewed and streamlined. Earlier in the week, Dr Zabaneh said the aim would be to equip students with the knowledge they need to excel in a tertiary level institution and in the workplace.
Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Culture: “So we are indeed, we are in the middle of this work where our curriculum reform steering committee is finalizing our national curriculum plan. It is a framework that will guide all the different programs for each subject, from preschool through high school. So we anticipate that by the end of May, this National Curriculum Framework will be complete. We are in the process of forming a large number, over 100 working groups that will focus on these topics, starting in May and continuing through the summer. At the same time, we also plan to create a virtual bank for lesson plans so that our teachers don’t have to spend 3-4 hours at night working hard to create these lesson plans. But not just the lesson plans but also the assessments that come with those lessons which are now skill-based and not just memorization-based, so alongside that we’ll also have a retraining of our teachers so that they now understand what what it means to have a competency-based curriculum. What it means to undertake teaching in terms of project-based and problem-based learning. These kinds of things now are the things that we are now engaged in and so we are in the middle, in the middle of all of this right now.
Ninety percent of all schools have been given the green light to resume face-to-face learning. A full return for all six hundred and five schools across the country is scheduled for August this year. Currently, schools have taken a hybrid approach to learning, however, Education Minister Francis Fonseca has said a full return to in-person learning is the goal of his ministry. According to Fonseca, two main challenges have been created by the pandemic his ministry is tackling.
Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, Electronic Governance, Science and Technology: “The idea behind curriculum reform is to provide, you know, a better quality education for our students. So everything will work together, in parallel. We intend to unveil the new program again, also in August, and this new program, you know, will be a much more effective program, a much more focused program, a lot more focused and so it will also give us the opportunity to focus more on recovery. So I see the two things as being parallel, working together. We are looking at fundamental reform. You know, the program is absolutely overloaded. It is absolutely overloaded and we intend to reduce what they call learning outcomes. I’ve talked about this before and make sure our students learn what matters. It is critical. We cannot, in a country like Belize, we cannot lose sight of the fact that education must be linked to national development. It must be linked to economic development, to the national development of our country. We must therefore educate our people to be part of the growth of Belize, the development of Belize and equip them with the skills, knowledge, information, values, attitudes they need to participate effectively in the development of Belize . So we need to have a much more focused and targeted program and that will be the focus and I think Belizeans, I think, will embrace the program when we unveil it in a few weeks.
The full return of in-person learning will be rolled out alongside the ministry’s curriculum reform agenda.