The Ministry of Education held a press conference this morning to discuss key policy objectives in the education and training sector that will be affecting teachers with provisional teaching license across Belize. The ministry has requested that all teachers with provisional license, further their studies and apply for a full teacher’s license since their new implementation will not allow for renewal of provisional licenses. A mandatory special permit has been introduced for applications, this will run up until Match 15. This permit will be only issued if the applicant who has a provisional license but will continue studies. Minister of Education Patrick Faber spoke about the statutory Instrument that was signed in 2012 that had already enforced the same regulations being implemented today.
“In accordance with the education and training act of 2010 the Education Amendment Rules Statutory Instrument #87 of 2012 made amendments to the education rules of 2000 to provide for the functions of the Belize Teaching Service Commission and to enforce the standards set by the Ministry for entry into teaching to assure the quality and status of the Belize Teaching Service and the quality and delivery of education and to enforce all regulations for the administration of the teaching service as it relates to employment, appointment, transfer, discipline and termination of teachers in government and government aided pre primary, primary, secondary, tertiary and TVET students.”
Faber says that the ministry has been lenient long enough with those teachers that have not applied for a full teacher’s license.
“We also conducted a teacher license audit in order to determine the status of the licensing of teachers since the education rules of 2000 and to signal the requirement of all teachers to be appropriately licensed. What are we saying there? Yes we started in 2000 and all kinds of things happened, some had licenses some didn’t some had the wrong one, some had licenses that were not signed. Everything that could have gone wrong with the licensing went wrong but especially the fact that the Ministry did not insist on clamping down when the five years expired in 2005 or in 2010 or in the years in between; nothing was done.”
Faber spoke about teachers that hold a provisional license such as study leave and retirees.
“Those teachers who are on study leave and your provisional license will expire in the time that you are on study leave you should apply for the special permit as well. Why because if you don’t hold some kind of license or permit legally you can’t be hired and so you can’t be paid and I’m sure you want to collect if you are a teacher in that position. Lastly those applicants who will retire in 2018 the committee thought that we should give some relief to those persons who will retire shortly within two years. When we say retire we mean 55. So if you are already past the age of 55 and you are stretching your retirement years this does not apply to you. Those teachers who have passed the age of 55 in other words and who are employed now with the provisional license will need to leave the system.”
President of Belize National Teacher’s Union, Luke Palacio says that they are also on board and that the union has informed their members tirelessly to apply for a full teacher’s license.
“We have been keeping our teachers up to date in terms of reminding them at all our meetings that we hold, we’ve said to them to remember if they have provisional licenses that the rules are clear that after five years you must get the necessary training to upgrade your license from a provisional license to a full license. They are aware. We ensure that we sit on different committees, be it with Ministry or with management so that again we can mitigate what has transpired here. We keep on talking to our teachers about continuous professional development, it forms part of our theme in some of our conventions in the past where we are inviting to our teachers to get the professional development and that BNTU is not going to be here to defend persons who just decide that they will pay their $20 and get away with things and that the union will defend them. That is not our position, we are a professional organization, we will always defend the rights of our members as long as those rights are being violated.”
When issued a special permit to continue studies, the permit will not exceed three years. As mention the special permit will only be granted to those who fit the criteria.
1300 Teachers May Lose Their Jobs
For years, the issue of the teachers training has been on the drawing board at the Ministry of Education. According to recent figures, only about forty percent of primary school teachers are trained at the associate level while in secondary schools only thirty-one percent have the required training. The ministry thus embarked on a program to equip teachers with pedagogical skills which have now become a requisite for their licensing to teach this coming academic year. But that means that over a thousand teachers will not be returning to the classrooms. News Five’s Duane Moody has a report on a conference by the Ministry of Education.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Many teachers in the classroom are not licensed to practice the profession. And today, at an education press conference held at the Biltmore Plaza, the Ministry of Education announced that over one thousand three hundred teachers from primary and secondary institutions are expected to lose their jobs because they did not complete education training. Back in 2008, the ministry notified teachers of the need for them to obtain certification in pedagogy. According to Minister of Education Patrick Faber it is part of the policy of the ministry to strengthen the education system.
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education
“We invested in teacher education and professional development. We provided financial incentives for teachers to acquire professional qualifications. In our second term in 2012, we pledged to continue that work that we started back in 2008 and we continued to the following among others. Continuing the drive to train and certify all principals and vice principals in school leadership; constantly reviewing teacher education programs to meet and exceed new national standards. The Education Act chapter thirty-six of the laws of Belize revised edition 2000 provided for the governance of the education sector, including the licensing of teachers. So it is sixteen years ago. In accordance with this act, the education rules statutory instrument number ninety-two of 2000 provides for the regulation of the education sector, including the requirements for a license to teacher.”
So what is the Belize National Teachers Union doing to mitigate the inevitable; that is for its teachers to meet the training obligations or be removed from the teaching system? According to National President Luke Palacio, teachers have been constantly reminded that provisional licenses would have expired.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
“We don’t want the public nor our members who are teachers to say that the union has done nothing for them; that the union is throwing them out in the cold because they’ve been told. We keep on talking to our teachers about continuous professional development. It forms part of our theme in some of our conventions in the past where we are insisting on our teachers—you need to get the professional development and that B.N.T.U. is not going to be here to defend persons who just decide I pay mi twenty dollars a month or mi eighteen dollars a month and I can get away with whatever and the union will defend us.”
Faber also announced that between now and March fifteenth, teachers whose provisional licenses will expire on June 2017, will be able to apply to an Advisory Committee for a special permit for a period not exceeding three years for them to acquire pedagogical training.
“It was not until recent times that significant progress had been made in increasing the percentage of trained teachers in our schools. The percentage or trained teachers in 2008/2009 at the pre-primary level was at eleven point nine percent. At the primary level in that same school year was forty-two point five percent and at the secondary level, the percentage of trained teachers was twenty-nine point seven percent. By 2014/2015, the number at pre-primary had risen to thirty-one point eight percent; the number at primary, sixty-seven point six percent and the number at secondary, to thirty-nine point six percent.”
But what about those who are nearing retirement and have given decades of service in the teaching profession? Palacio says that recommendations have been made for those who qualify to get benefits.
“In some of the recommendations that have been made, the B.N.T.U. was very instrumental in ensuring that all our teachers who would be affected would not be affected negatively in its totality. For instance, we insisted that persons who qualify for service benefit that even if they don’t have or even if their license would expire that they would be given their service benefit. We were concerned about persons nearing their retirement and don’t want to go back to school or would find it very difficult given the circumstances to go back to school. So we were able to get agreement in the recommendations that persons who would retire in the next two years, will be granted the special permit that we are talking about. In terms of areas where there is very limited or non-existent opportunities for these teachers to get trained to get the necessary qualifications that they too would have to be given considerations.”
Duane Moody for News Five.