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May 2, 2019

Developing Critical Reading Skills of Primary School Students

May is recognized annually as the Education Showcase month by the Ministry of Education. For some time now, the ministry in partnership with the Peace Corps and other organizations has been looking at financial literacy: a pathway to a productive life for primary and second school students. For two years, the focus has been on getting primary school students to acquire critical reading skills at their grade level. Today, a report card was presented on how the project has developed. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Empowering teachers with effective intervention activities to improve literacy skills for students to learn to read—it is the mission of the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Peace Corps Belize, and spearheaded by the Quality Assurance and Development Services Unit of the ministry. As one of its first round of activities on the Education Showcase Calendar for 2019, the results of a literacy screening and intervention report were shared with stakeholders at the Ramada Belize City Princess.


Ernilda Maheia

Ernilda Maheia, QUADS, Ministry of Education

“The results of the literacy intervention project has shown that there were some improvements in students reading at their grade. However, as it relates to the classrooms, there is still a lot more that we need to do as it pertains to equipping teachers with literacy intervention activities.”


…and that is where Peace Corps Belize comes in with the technical support and expertise that the teachers need. The organization has been working in the country since the 1960’s and back in 2017 partnered with the Ministry of Education on this programme in primary schools. While the report speaks to improvements in some areas, there still are challenges, says Greg Macdonald.


Greg Macdonald

Greg Macdonald, Director of Programming & Training, Peace Corps

“This strategy allows teachers to be able to pull small groups of students out of the whole class and conduct about a fifteen-minute intervention with those small groups of struggling readers. That in itself is a new skill I think for a lot of teachers who are still learning how to manage a whole class. So by pulling out the small group while still maintaining good behaviour with students who are not participating in those small groups. That’s one of the biggest challenges. Another is just accountability; ensuring that teachers are implementing the interventions on a regular basis. That is a slow process and requires oversight from the principal and the District Education Office and the ministry in general to ensure that that is happening across the country.”


Since July of 2018, five literacy specialists have been attached to Peace Corps training and providing in class coaching to teachers while interventions are being implemented.


Greg Macdonald

“They are there alongside the teachers to give them feedback on how they are implementing the interventions, modelling some of the interventions, showing them how it is done and then helping them analyze the results and the progress that the students are making. I think we are seeing a lot of value again as was mentioned all morning. I think there is still a lot of work to be done, but the schools with whom the Peace Corps response volunteers worked showed some marked improvement in terms of student achievement and I think that’s important. It’s not a magic book by any means and again there is still a lot of work to be done, but I think the report clearly shows that we are seeing an impact.”


In the 2018 fiscal year of the project, students from forty-nine primary schools benefited from the programme. There are already plans for that number to be doubled.


Ernilda Maheia

“The next step we plan to do is to work with more schools. So the programme for next year, we have selected a hundred and ten project schools and for the first time this year, we are including the existing schools as part of the project. So the work will continue with Peace Work and the project schools.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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