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Jun 1, 2018

The Arrival of Belizean Studies to Classrooms

What does it mean to be a Belizean? This and many other questions form the basis for a different kind of subject scheduled to be rolled out to secondary school across the Jewel next September. It’s called Belizean Studies and according to the Ministry of Education, it is intended to provoke serious discussion among the people who will be responsible for shaping the future of the nation. It will also be taught somewhat differently, with a multimedia platform introduced that provides not only facts and figures but the means to connect modern students with the past and present. It was presented to teachers of social studies and history for their input today and News Five’s Aaron Humes was there.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Philosopher George Santayana wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Belize’s Ministry of Education wants to use our past and present as a foundation for the future – those sitting in the classrooms on a daily basis. Education Minister Patrick Faber said this new and exciting journey is especially for them.


Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“It is not something that is written down and passed down and therefore makes it very boring for delivery. This is something that is alive and dynamic and you can [participate in it]. And that is especially made possible because it incorporates the use of the technology as you’ve heard it described. And you know that in today’s day and age, when it is that we are trying to get across to particularly our young people – which, my friends, I remind you makes up the majority of our population – if it is that audience that we are primarily trying to reach, and given that quite often they are oblivious to any circumstances that we have described are important for nation-building, for identifying ourselves as Belizeans and pushing forward the agenda of development, we must make sure that what we push in that curriculum appeals to our young people, and that they want to be active participants of its delivery.”


Director of Quality Assurance and Development Services for the Ministry, John Newport, was careful to distinguish the outline of this new programme, as presented at the Marion Jones Stadium to an audience of teachers of social studies and history, from the traditional concept of history. He also discussed what a typical lesson might look like.


John Newport

John Newport, Director of Quality Assurance and Development Services, Ministry of Education

“We started off perhaps with an idea that it would be mostly history; but then we very quickly realized that if you’re going to appreciate your country, you need to understand how lots of things fit together; so you can’t really understand history without understanding geography and the environment; you can’t understand politics without understanding economics. So what it is, is an integrated subject, but it is based around twelve key questions that we hope the lessons will answer for students, so one question related to environment, one question related to society, one question related to sovereignty and so on. One of the advantages of having more time is you can really begin to unleash the power of the creative teacher, so they don’t have to worry about ‘well, we have to cram lots of information for a test on Friday;’ we have time to give the students lots of hands-on, task-based activities. And very much obviously we want to make a multi-media driven curriculum. Many students now can make their own YouTube videos; if you look at YouTube, you’ll see lots of high school class assignments from all over the world, students making videos about their own history, culture and geography and sharing that with the rest of the world and getting views. So there’s lots of things that are going to develop; hopefully, yes if we go forward five years and you go into a Belizean Studies classroom, it will not look like a Belizean history classroom might have looked like ten years ago.”


St. John’s College has been a pioneer in developing a similar curriculum for its all-male student body. Teacher Yasser Musa, who helped build the Belizean Studies online portal and the accompanying mobile app, discussed the hunger of students for this key to their personal development and character.


Yasser Musa

Yasser Musa, Teacher, St. John’s College

“This is the fifth year where S.J.C. has rolled out something similar, not the exact thing, but we will make adjustments and follow this national curriculum with our own design, because the idea is that other schools do their own thing, but that we just use the portal as a hub, a kind of mastership, so to speak, if you want to look at it like that. But I have to say at our school, history is regarded as something dynamic, something innovative, something where the students feel as if they are involved in the learning process, and so it’s not like this old-school idea where it’s boring and so, because we use a project-based system, where they develop projects. Yesterday for example, we had these creativity awards where you could see the things they made. So that’s another level of learning, where they are responsible for the production of their ideas.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


Participants were able to give their own commentary on the planned program, which will be presented in a pilot project in selected schools for the coming school year.

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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