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The Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, and Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Cassandra T. Rogers, signed an agreement on January 27, 2020, to implement a US$10 million loan to improve the quality and gender equity of education at the primary and secondary levels in the country.

The agreement between the IDB and the Government of Belize (GOB) launches the second phase of the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQIP II), with special focus on innovation in Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, and that will expand the learning of scientific, digital and problem-solving skills.

As part of the program, a STEAM Lab School will be built in Belize City, as an innovative secondary school that provides young people with enriching pathways to future-forward education and career opportunities. The school will encourage innovation and experimentation by its student and faculty bodies through its integrated, inquiry- and problem-based learning approaches. It is envisioned that the school will have 300 students once fully operational.

At the primary level, the program will help the 50% of schools that have not yet benefited from EQIP as part of its first phase. This will include training in hands-on student-centered learning for 320 principals, 1,500 teachers and some 12,000 students. “In EQIP I rigorous evaluations revealed that classroom practices have changed. Specifically, we saw significant increases in the time used for group work, hands-on science experiments, and active learning engagement of students,” explains IDB Representative in Belize, Cassandra T. Rogers.

The program is carried out in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is completely aligned with the joint priority of the IDB and the GOB to improve STEAM learning, digital education and innovation for the next generations.

The IDB loan of US$10 million has a repayment term of 25 years, a grace period of five and a half years and an interest rate base on LIBOR and has a local counterpart of US$100,000.