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Feb 1, 2011

S.J.C. Extension Department closing its doors permanently

The historic Extension Department of St John’s College is going through its third transformation since it opened its doors sixty years ago. The Department is gradually phasing out its adult education program due to new government initiatives that duplicate the program. It is known that three out of every five students do not complete high school but is quality being sacrificed for quantity? News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The current enrolment of three hundred and ten students at St. John’s College Extension Department will be the last group to successfully complete a three-year curriculum which certifies them with a General Equivalency Diploma.  The announcement was made last night by the Jesuit institution’s president during a town meeting at the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall.  For over half a century S.J.C. Extension has kept its classrooms open to students seeking Adult Continuing Education but with the introduction of similar programs by the Ministry of Education it is now phasing out the program.

frank garbutt

Frank Garbutt, President, St. John’s College

“We have had where the Government of Belize for the first time has began offering high school equivalency within Belize City.  I think it’s at the Gwen Lizarraga Campus that they’re doing so and there are other plans.  For close to sixty-something years our extension has been probably the pioneer in doing that.  With the government now being in it, it has meant for S.J.C. that we can now look at new opportunities that exist.”

According to Lois Barber, the division’s headmistress, since its inception in the fifties it has catered primarily to individuals who were unable to attend a regular high school.

Lois Barber, Headmistress, S.J.C. Extension Dept.

“Over the past fifty-odd years since the St. John’s Extension has been in existence we have served thousands of Belizeans who either dropped out of high school or didn’t get an opportunity to attend high school and this is in the more recent years.  We have seen that a number of our students who have accessed extension are those students who did not get the opportunity to go to a traditional high school.  However, in the past we have served many Belizeans who have dropped out of high school and wanted to access their high school equivalency diploma.”

As of the upcoming academic year S.J.C. Extension will no longer be taking on new students.  Instead it is preparing a new pilot program for the tertiary level.

Frank Garbutt

“So starting the new school year we will not be seeking new admissions for the extension.  We will continue the program in seeing those who are currently enrolled complete their program and receive their G.E.D. Certificate once they meet the requirement.  Our real goal now though is to kind of work with young people who have graduated high school but still don’t have the numeracy and literacy skills to access tertiary education and that is a growing problem.”

Along with the increasing issue of literacy and innumeracy is the fact that the enrolment of students attending ACE programs has decreased in age, a problem which Barber says is reflected in their lack of commitment to complete the course.

Lois Barber

Lois Barber

“In the three years that I’ve been here I’ve noted that  a lot of our students are very young, coming directly from primary school to Extension and the majority of them are not very serious, they are so immature.  We have lost the more mature population of students and I believe there are reasons for that because in the past they used to take in police officers, soldiers, nurses who did not have a high school diploma and so in order for them to access that they would come here.  Now they are fewer in numbers but the younger population of students are not very committed to their studies.”

There is currently a high dropout rate for students enrolled in secondary schools across the country, a fact Minister of Education Patrick Faber attested to prior to introducing the Gwen Lizarraga Evening Division.  While some might argue that the quality of education provided by the Jesuits is better it is yet to be seen whether the problem Barber alluded to will affect the productivity of the new government helmed initiative. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The Ministry of Education is proposing to open other facilities around the country as part of its Education Finance Reform, which was launched last October.

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3 Responses for “S.J.C. Extension Department closing its doors permanently”

  1. Lindsay Howard says:

    Wish they’d come down south and open up an adult education program. We surely do need one down here.

  2. Earl Grey says:

    It’s the end of an era………AND THE START OF SOMETHING NEW!!!!

  3. el alcalde says:

    Congrats and a great thank you for all the years of wonderful services.

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