REPORT #273 May 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

In a move to overcome shortcomings in the minimal educational system available to a small country with a widely scattered population and little money. The cost effectiveness of teaching key subjects leading to mechanical engineering, electronic and program software engineering degrees is being tackled at a somewhat earlier level.

A Belizean Professorship Program attached to UCB has been started with a fledgling formation meeting of a few local working Phd's. The program is under the guidance of Dr. Louis Zabaneh. The hope, is that Belize can attract expatriat Belizeans abroad with Ph'ds, or Masters degrees in the fields of Mathematics, Sciences, Chemistry and Biology to come home on exchange fellowships periodically, to help fill in the gaps with local education. They will get recognition and brownie points with their host institutions where they work in foreign countries.

The hope is to get the basics out of the way, so students in Belize can go further into the engineering fields. Belize badly needs practical engineers in a variety of technical fields. Many of which could be acquired with simpler Associate Degrees and a little higher Bachelor Degrees. There are not enough students in any district town, to specifically tackle one particular engineering degree course, so it is thought that by getting the basic scientific subjects necessary done locally, with help from Belizean teachers from abroad on semester breaks, or other arranged programs through further study leaves and perhaps GRANTS from places like the Agency for International Development, a boost could be given to lower level sciences. Another project from UCB extended field campuses is the start of co-ordinating DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAMS. Europe is already offering many excellent DISTANCE LEARNING COURSES AND DEGREES that are fully accredited, that do not require a student to leave the host country anymore. Web CT course templates are a system that is widely used in Community Colleges and Universities throughout the USA. The UK and in particular Scotland seem to be further advanced with on-line internet DISTANCE LEARNING ACCREDITED COURSES than the USA in most fields. Almost nothing is done in the State of Florida, but the State of Oregon has advanced equal to the U.K. In the numbers and variety of courses and subjects that now can be taught through DISTANCE LEARNING AND THE INTERNET. Most of this information can now be found on the internet by using the search engine. India has many software programmers that would be happy to come to Belize to teach. They are top quality too.

Locally in Belize, there is a small but very good scattered number of practical working engineers in many fields that could be tapped. Most are expatriats of other countries who are now Belizeans. Either through marriage, or through automatic citizenship during the changeover from Colony days to Self Government and Indendence. While many local foreign born expatriat practical engineers are highly skilled, they are also usually eccentric, misfits in their own home country societies. They usually hate bureaucracy, paperwork, regulations and do not suffer fools lightly. Their eccentricity is more geared to no-nonsense, "lets get it done" type attitude. They are usually very opinionated. This makes them difficult to deal with for an academic environment, but their lifetime of skills and experience, does make them a valuable local resource if they could be tapped. Most are very patriotic helpful kindhearted Belizeans with 'hearts of GOLD' and would bend over backward to help, if treated properly, keeping in mind their eccentricities that brought them to a pioneer land like Belize in the first place. Challenge and doing the impossible with very little, is their "middle name". A useful local resource if you can organize things around their abilities, so they could concentrate on no-nonsense technical engineering expertise, instead of bureaucratic requirements.

There are civil engineers, aeronautical engineers, aviation mechanics, mechanical engineers, electronic engineers and so on, all in Belize already. Working around their eccentric shortcomings would be the challenge for UCB bureaucrats.

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