MOE to Standardize High School Fees and Pay for CXCs

Now that the teachers have concluded their series of rallies, the Ministry of Education hopes to turn the page and focus on much needed education reform. On Tuesday morning, February 4th, the Ministry held a breakfast briefing with the press to discuss the next phases in the roll out of the Secondary School Finance Reform as well as new initiatives such as the capping and standardization of secondary school fees and subsidizing of CSEC/CXC examinations.

The Secondary School Finance Reform is being phased out over a seven year period. The measure is expected to level the playing field for secondary education institutions in the country by allocating government funds to schools based on student enrollment rather than number of teachers. Schools will receive a set amount of money per student. They will receive more if they accept students with less financial resources. They will also receive more if they enroll students who need more academic assistance. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, David Leacock, says sometimes equality is not justice. He says, "There are some people who need more help than others." Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, says, "We are saying to the schools; if you take students from poor economic background and if you take students who have been struggling with academics then we will give you more because they need more help."

The Ministry of Education is partnering with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation to record the socio-economic status of students who will be in high school for the 2014/2015 school year. The Ministry of Human Development will execute a national household survey using students from Standard 6 to 3rd Form as the respondents. The students will take home an information sheet that they will be asked to full out with their parents' assistance. The parent must sign the information sheet upon completion and the student will take it back to school. The Ministry of Human Development will collect the information sheets and use the information in a formula to calculate socio-economic status. There are eight levels, ranging from very poor to not poor. Participation in the survey is not mandatory but it must be done if one wishes to benefit from Government subsidies.

Based on the evaluations by the Ministry of Human Development, Government will waive secondary school fees for students with financial needs. Some will get 100 percent off, some 75 percent, others 50 percent and so forth. Minister Faber says, "If you are a student or parent, you will know that these fees can be exorbitantly high and even if you are not a student or a parent you know that. Such high fees can result in socio economic exclusion of many within our society who cannot afford to pay." The school fees waiving initiative is still in its early stages and discussions are ongoing with school managements. It is all part of a greater plan to standardize and cap secondary school fees. C.E.O. Leacock says "What we have proposed is to come up with a standard fee across schools that would cover everything. Everybody would pay the same fee."

The Government of Belize is also expected to spend more than $1.5 million to cover the cost of sitting CSEC/CXC for Belizean students. Again, this may be based on financial need as identified by the Ministry of Human Development. The partnership between the two ministries is a mutualistic relationship. The Ministry of Education will keep track of the attendance records of students whose family is benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme.

The Guardian