For the past couple of weeks teachers, parents and students have been asking a number of questions about the Secondary School Refinancing Reform. Will it mean less money for your child, or for his or her school - and will it force budget cuts which would lower the quality of education? Pressing questions and valid concerns….

And, today to address all that, officials of the Ministry of Education called a press conference in which details of the new reform were highlighted.

The technocrats and policy-makers said it's not about cuts, it's about fighting dropouts and low enrollment.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Belize is spends more on education than any other Central American and Caribbean country, yet our education system is riddled with more problems than many of these territories:

Patrick Faber: Ministry of Education & Youth
"Firstly: enrollment rates remain low 3 out of every 5 high school age children are not in high school. Secondly: 2 out of every 5 Belizeans overall complete high school. Thirdly: trained teacher levels are low. lastly: repetition and dropout rates are high."

Those are just some of the issues plaguing the Education sector in Belize, but what should be noted is that even though more is invested in education every year, the investments don't yield the expected results. That disparity gave rise to The Secondary School Refinancing Reform Exercise

David Leacock: CEO-Ministry of Education & Youth
"We will not be spending more. In the initial year we might be spending a little bit more. But we are trying to keep it within our budget. But in subsequent years we expect that any increases that occur will be tied to the enrollment in schools and so increase spending then will be matching enrollment. Right now it is not matching enrollment it is matching the diversity of the curriculum, the number of teachers we hire, but it's not necessarily link to the number of students that are enroll. So we find that we are spending more every year because the curriculum keep expanding, adding more teachers but the number of students are not necessarily increasing. And so by tying it to the number of students we are insuring that any increase that occurs will be link to these results; more students enroll etc."

Faber says that this reform will prove to be what is much needed in the education sector because the old method wasn't very effective:

Patrick Faber: Ministry of Education & Youth
"All schools charge user fees and there is tremendous variation in the structure and the cost of fees. Under the new financing method, secondary schools will be finance on a per student basis. This means that each school will receive an equivalent amount of funding for each student that they enroll and all students will receive an equivalent amount of funding no matter the school in which they are enroll. But in addition to that the new method of financing will include additional grants to schools for students they enroll with special academic and socio economic need. Finally, the new method of financing will make provision for an additional grant, a performance bonus that will link to school performance on key performance indicators to be agreed upon later. The method of financing will therefore provide key incentives to schools. It will provide incentives to be more efficient to reduce unnecessary expenditure, to reduce repetition on dropout, thus ensuring that we get more value for our money and thus ensuring that more of our young people get an education."

In carrying out that reform, operating on the tenets of equity and fairness, one thing remains clear- you will not be incurring additional costs and as David Leacock adds, it is not a situation in which monies will be taken from Peter to pay Paul:

David Leacock: CEO-Ministry of Education & Youth
"This is not a robin hood scheme if you will. This is the propose method of implementation and is one in which we will keep schools that are identified to be above the average, keep them at their current level of funding. They will also get additional compensations for increments of teachers annually, so their level of funding will not go down, no cuts. But we will be gradually boosting the schools that are below average until we reach parity. Once we reach parity then everybody goes on the same formula and everybody can get increases base on enrollment etc."

Although this new reform project will start next month, the Minister of Education said that the benefits will not happen overnight. The implementation of the project will take place over a five year period so as to lessen any shocks , facilitate a transition period and make adjustments where necessary.

Channel 7