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Jul 24, 2017

E.U., U.B. Partner to Train Teachers in Early Childhood Education

The European Union has been implementing its Accompanying Measures for Sugar program in Belize for some time now. While one of the key targets has to do with road construction in the North, there are other measures taking residents out of the Sugar Belt. One of those has to do with finding persons willing to become trained in the increasingly important area of early childhood education – the first opportunity to develop future residents of the Northern Districts. The national university of Belize marked a milestone with graduation of the first cohort of the program and News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The need for trained teachers in the area of early childhood education is critical, particularly since preschool and pre-K are an important period in a child’s development.  ECE, as it is called, refers to the all-around development of a child’s personality.  The first two years of a child’s life are spent in forming a sense of self, and most children are able to distinguish themselves from others by the age of two.  In the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts, the European Union and the Government of Belize have partnered with the University of Belize on a tertiary curriculum to educate teachers in ECE.


Nestor Chan

Nestor Chan, Dean of Education & Arts, UB

“The intention was to train early childhood teachers and secondary education teachers.  At the moment we have completed the first cohort of teachers doing the certificate in early childhood and we have graduated about fifteen students in that group. And that’s the shorter program, at the same time we did the diploma in secondary education to enhance the skills of teachers in secondary schools and we graduated about nineteen of them.  We currently have enrolled approximately between thirty-six and forty students in the Associates in Early Childhood Education, and in addition to that, I would say over a hundred and seventy-five students enrolled in the secondary education program with five different concentrations.”


Those areas of focus include Spanish, English, Science, Math and the social sciences.  The project is aimed at strengthening the capacity of primary school teachers within the sugar belt where there is a high demand for teacher in the field of ECE.  At present, however, there are only ten qualified teachers in that area of learning.


Nestor Chan

“There is a demand, only that it’s a little bit tricky as to how it is interpreted, because we may have a high number of trained teachers in elementary education who were allowed to qualify as ECE teachers, but regarding ECE training, I think of the over three hundred plus teachers needed in the north, only about ten of them actually have the specific early childhood training, so technically there’s a high demand for early childhood training.”


Professor Clement Sankat, President of the University of Belize, agrees that the inclusion of early childhood education into UB’s course offering is a positive first step in preparing children for the lives they will lead.


Clement Sankat

Prof. Clement Sankat, President, University of Belize

“I think this is a wonderful initiative of the three partners here: the European Union, Government of Belize and the University of Belize.  My understanding of the teacher situation in Belize is that there are hundreds of teachers required, especially in the early childhood area which is the foundational step for building the educational capacity and the quality in Belize.  Once the students, young little kids have the opportunity for good early childhood education, one can see possible progression to primary, secondary and then tertiary education.  So this is a great foundational step.”


The initiative to provide an alternative to the existing dependency on the sugar industry is one that is acknowledged by the UB President since he too comes from a similar background where the reliance on the sugar industry is overwhelming.


Clement Sankat

“The business of sugar and the dependencies of communities on sugar is not unique to Belize, it’s a Caribbean-wide phenomenon.  I, myself, have worked for many years within the sugar community in Trinidad and I think one can give the European Union a lot of credit for creating a new kind of person who emanates from these communities, one who is educated, one who, hopefully, can become entrepreneurial and reducing that dependency upon traditional sugar.  So it is a very innovative thing that they’ve done there.”


The idea is that by the end of 2018, UB would have trained over a hundred teachers in early childhood education, with a view to expand the curriculum across all of its campuses countrywide. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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