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Aug 10, 2015

Distance Learning – Belize and Canada Link Up

Frances Ferriera

A first-of-its-kind conference is being held over a three-day period in Belize City to discuss open learning. The conference that is hosting students, teachers and other education specialists is being held under the direction of the Canada/Caribbean Chapter of the Commonwealth Open Schooling Association (COMOSA). Currently, Gwen Liz offers open school learning, but the aim is to get other institutions onboard on what could become the next big thing in learning in Belize- one that proponents say will tailor programs to the needs of students and provide a viable option and make education more accessible for those who are no longer attending conventional schooling. For now, Belize’s offering is at the secondary level which also prepares students for CXC’s. News Five stopped in at the conference to learn more about COMOSA’s open school of learning.


Frances Ferreira, Education Specialist, Innovative Open Schooling & Commonwealth of Learning

“Open Schooling is for students who, for whatever reason, cannot complete their education in a conventional system, so the advantage for them to become part of the open schooling is to complete their education. But most important, the open schooling can assess the needs of the students as to why they are dropping out and try to tailor the curriculum according to that.”


Cynthia Thompson

Andrea Polanco

“What are some of the successes that you’ve seen in Canada, for example, that Belizeans can say this is something that we can achieve as well?”


Frances Ferreira

“The biggest advantage within the developed world like Canada or New Zealand or Australia is that students, while they are enrolled in conventional school, they are also enrolled in open school. Like for example, if I live in Canada, I am allowed to do four of my six subjects in conventional school and two of those six in open school. It allows such an opportunity to find employment, help pay for the cost of education, so it allows flexibility and it is a policy within the country that I am encouraging amongst developing countries that ministers of education can look at how they can blend conventional and open and innovative schooling so that it gives students that flexibility.”


Cynthia Thompson, Chairperson, Canada-Caribbean Chapter, COMOSA

“When the whole idea of Open Schooling spreads and we embrace it more in Belize that is what we are hoping to happen. That we might have students that say that I want to accelerate and want to take this course to move faster through my program and that they are able to and if the material is able to them, then they are able to do that. At this moment, our focus right now is trying to reach those students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to do schooling, but I think it’s a wide field out there. For those who may be able to access it even though they are in school and they want to advance and those who may have some struggles at the beginning and then have to catch up back as well.”


Andrea Polanco

“Would you say there is a demand for this here in Belize?”


Cynthia Thompson

“Well, if you look at the out of school population, there is definitely a demand for it. We have quite a number of high schools in Belize that offer adult and continuing education programs and these programs cater to those persons who might want to further their education as well.”


Andrea Polanco

“A lot of people think that perhaps it is something costly that I am not able to afford, especially here in Belize, how affordable is it?”


Frances Ferreira

“Open Schooling is actually cheaper and more affordable than conventional schooling. We did various studies in various countries, but the commonwealth of learning did a big study with a focus on Namibia and India. In both countries, we found that in India, the open school cost one tenth of what it costs in the conventional school and in Namibia is about one third. What is expensive is when you start in open school- that investment cost, but it’s like any other business.”


Cynthia Thompson

“I am sure that once the materials are made available, it will become much more affordable for them. Imagine a student who lives all the way in Corozal that wants to access schooling that is not available to him, the person goes online rather than taking a bus, find somebody to care for your child- it’s easy to sit at home once your child is asleep to go and do some work. So, it will be much more affordable when you look at the whole picture.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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