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Apr 25, 2000

Ministry works to promote literacy

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For many Belizeans who were not cycling, swimming or enjoying liquid refreshment, the long holiday weekend was a chance to just rest in a hammock and curl up with a good book. But to a surprising number of our people the idea of reading a novel–or even a newspaper–is not a viable option. The nation that once prided itself on a literacy rate approaching 100% has for a long time rested on it’s laurels…but hopefully that habit is changing.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Primary school students may be out on their Easter break but their principals and teachers are busy this week attending classes to learn how to successfully teach children to read, comprehend and write. The literacy workshop is just one of the many intervention programmes the Ministry of Education started five months ago.

Dr. Dorian Barrow, P.S Ministry of Education

“As you know the 1996 Literacy Report suggested that we had a functional literacy rate of 43%. Many of the people who passed through our primary school system cannot read, write, comprehend and quantify at the standard four level and this is one intervention that we are trying to do to address that problem within the schools.”

To help the educators improve their teaching skills, the Ministry of Education has invited Stanley Swartz, a Professor of Education at the California State University to talk about school reform and show the participants how they can get children more involved with reading and writing.

Stanley Swartz, Professor of Education

“Well one of the things we are helping teachers and principals to learn is that they have to provide lots of support, lots of opportunities to read and write. We are giving them new teaching methods or some newer teaching methods of ways to spend more time doing this. Of course the parents will have an active role in all of this.”

Jacqueline Woods

“What advice do you have for parents?”

Stanley Swartz

“Well the most important advice we have for parents is to read to your children and also let your children see that you read, that reading is important and that it is a part of your life but then reading to young children is very important.”

The workshop is being funded by the United Nation’s Children’s Fund. Miquel Ugalde, UNICEF Representative in Belize says 10 years ago the organization committed itself to improve children’ education.

Miquel Ugalde, UNICEF Representative, Belize

“We don’t want the children to go to school supposedly learn to read, they have to now comprehend what they read. So this thrust of literacy really in depth ensuring that the principals, the teachers and the students, the children are really learning how to read and comprehend is going to improve radically the quality of education.”

The literacy workshop comes to a close this Thursday.

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