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Nov 8, 2016

Ministry of Education Works on Early Childhood Program in North

The European Union and the government kicked off an important program on early childhood education over the weekend. The program covers the Corozal and Orange District where preschool teachers are found to be anemic in imparting childhood education. In fact, only a handful of teachers are qualified; the program will assist with establishing a curriculum for tertiary level students who will go on to teach preschoolers.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Across the northern districts the number of children registered in primary schools is steadily on the rise.  More teachers have been deployed to classrooms in Corozal and Orange Walk to meet that increase in enrolment.  With greater emphasis on qualified instructors, the education sector is also seeing a boost in licensed teachers.  But that’s at the primary school level.  As far as preschools are concerned, the situation is dire.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“As you know, early childhood is an area that needs a lot of training.  In fact, our teachers are probably least qualified in the early childhood area.”

 

In kindergartens across both municipalities there are only ten competent individuals with pedagogical skills in early childhood education.  Such attachment processes that take place from birth to two years of age, can be influential to future education.

 

Nestor Chan

Nestor Chan, Dean of Education & Arts, UB

“Some years ago, the Ministry of Education identified the need to strengthen the early childhood component of our education system, as well as the secondary education.  There seem to be a huge gap in the availability of trained teachers in those two areas.  While there still remains some work that needs to be done in primary education, the ministry has made a lot of progress in that area.  But when you look at the early childhood, less than five percent of the population has training in early childhood, the teaching population.”

 

Early childhood education often focuses on learning through play, based on the research and philosophy of clinical psychologist Jean Piaget.  His study suggests that play meets the physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social needs of children.  Despite its importance, more teachers gravitate toward secondary education than they do preschool.

 

Nestor Chan

“In secondary education we have about thirty-three percent trained.  So you could see that massive gap.”

 

Realizing that disparity, government, along with the European Union, have partnered to assist with establishing an early childhood curriculum for tertiary level students who are preparing to return to the classroom as teachers.

 

Patrick Faber

“We are going to embark on other initiatives.  You may remember at the time of us deciding on the special permit that we gave special consideration to early childhood as a result of the fact that the training opportunities were not that many.  But this is the first initiative that we hope can churn out a significant number of trained early childhood teachers and so this will continue.  But it is also something that we are proud of at the secondary level because it now has, I think in excess of seventy-five teachers at the secondary level and many of those teachers who are in this program in fact, would have been caught by the licensing policy that we put in but because they are in this program and we know that they will complete within a certain period we allowed a leeway.”

 

That flexibility has seen the Ministry of Education tailor its offering to the sugar belt, much the same way it has done with the banana belt in South Stann Creek.  The role of the European Union is to aid in fostering economic and social development within the country.

 

Nestor Chan

“It’s like a continuation of the banana belt program where they’re assisting the different regions.  This one falls under the accompanying measures for sugar.  We targeted early childhood in Orange Walk and Corozal because we realized that there were only about ten persons in the entire two districts trained in early childhood and it may even be less than ten.  With this initiative we will be training at least a hundred early childhood teachers and over a hundred and fifty secondary school teachers.  The majors in early childhood focus on a certification in early childhood and an associate’s degree in early childhood.”

 

Those students have organized an exposition to showcase teaching tools for preschoolers.  The display at the ITVET in Orange Walk Town falls within the curriculum at the University of Belize.

 

Patrick Faber

“Today, I’m particularly pleased to be here because it’s always exciting to see or do some kind of check in the middle of all… And of course the teachers very happy to put on exhibition what they’ve learned.  I shared with them that we believe in this kind of program because they are able to right away put into effect what they’ve learned.  So if you see something today, tomorrow you’re able to go back to the classroom and you put it into effect and that pleases us very much in the Ministry of Education.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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