Education in Belize: Are Graduates Prepared Today and Students Being Prepared for Tomorrow?
by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant /
Our most precious resource, whether in Belize or anywhere else throughout the world, will always be our children! The rapidly growing tourism industry in Belize boasts the Caribbean Sea and Barrier Reef, many Maya ruins, our diverse cultures living side by side, an exotic rain forest, and many other attractions, and is currently one of the top sources of revenue for our government. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee whatsoever that tourism in Belize will always flourish or produce continuous revenue to the country. Our sugar, timber, citrus, and other agricultural industries (perhaps oil?) may also be top money earners for the country; but these industries too may decline or crash at any time. However, our children from yesterday, today and tomorrow have limitless potential to take a tiny country like Belize above and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams or expectations. Yet, with this basic concept in mind, we are not investing in our children (yesterday and today), specifically, in their Education. The percentage of time and money spent on/being invested in our children’s Education today, whether in Belize and throughout the Third World (underdeveloped and developing countries) is not anywhere near where it should be – nowhere even close to where it should be. Why?
No one entity in Belize, i.e. political party or church, is accountable and bears all the blame for this sad fact. Politicians and Education policymakers are not the only ones we should question about this overwhelming “lack of investment”, specifically time and money, in our children! Parents who simply don’t have any time to spend and dedicate on shaping and guiding their children’s Education, for whatever reason, and help them focus on disciplined learning are just as much to blame for the total lack of investment in our children today. Yet, usually these are the very parents and Education policymakers, who expect (demand) that schools miraculously produce well-educated and intelligent graduates, despite the fact that there is no investment in students other than a small fixed and budgeted amount of money each year. Moreover, tuition and fees for each student keep increasing each year! Yet, salaries (for parents and educators) just never keep pace with all the increases in the annual cost of Education, especially Secondary and Tertiary. How often, though, do we have to be reminded that politicians do not just fall from the sky to serve in “democratic” governments, i.e. Belize? Each and every politician who serves in a democratic government is “freely” elected by a majority of the people. Belize has long ceased to be a British colony, and since September 21, 1981 we fully rule ourselves as an independent nation.
Why, then, do we need to reform the Education process (schools) in Belize today? I was educated in Belize starting in the 1957 through 1971, and completed the highest level of education attainable in Belize at the time: Sixth Form. My education back then was my preparation for my future; but my future has already come to pass. According to the laws of Belize, I am now in a retirement stage and cannot work in Education anymore, except perhaps perhaps with special permission from the authorities that be. We should NOT, though, be educating our children in the 21st Century the same way I was educated in the 1950’s/ 60’s! Yet, that is exactly what we are doing today in Belize. Where is/was the investment in the future of our children today, and our children from the last 30 years? If our graduates today, and from the last 25 years, are not prepared to live and work in today’s Belize, it only follows that tomorrow’s students/graduates will face a similar, even worse, future. This is the beginning of a new school year, and so politicians, church, and educators should know “where” Belize is headed with our students! Do we/they know?
In Belize, Belizean citizens who now want/need to renew their passports must go through a maze of requirements, almost as if they were illegally living in their own country. Why are there so many stringent requirements now to simply renew a passport? Might it be that we fear a massive migration of our Youth somewhere else to seek a “better future”? If our Youth today, and from the last 25 years, were totally prepared for today’s world in Belize, they would have no need to want to migrate, or seek a better life elsewhere. Did we invest wisely in their future? Are we investing wisely today in the future of our children now? Or, are we all nonchalantly choosing to continue down the same path, and let tomorrow’s Belize worry about tomorrow’s Youth of Belize… Education is not like a government bureaucracy, so when it comes to reforms in Education, they should not be carried out as slowly as possible!
Finally, I want to make it quite clear that I am NOT trying to pressure anyone to reform Education in Belize. I am merely trying to point out to all Belizean adults, specifically Education policymakers, parents and educators, that this age old saying/proverb will always be true: We reap what we sow. This truth, of course, applies not only to our Education Systems in Belize but to every other aspect of life in Belize.