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Apr 20, 2020

COVID-19 Disrupts Present Academic Calendar; All Schools Remain Closed

High Schools normally close in May followed by primary schools in June for the summer break. But COVID-19 has disrupted every facet of life. The Ministry of Education today announced via webcast, a series of measures that will apply for the rest of the school year. Now classes were initially suspended in March and scheduled to reopen today, but students and parents can expect that home-based learning is likely to continue. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The 2019/2020 school year is seemingly at a premature end, as students and teachers at all levels of academia are asked to stay at home, while Belize remains in the throes of the coronavirus emergency.  Classrooms across the country were set to reopen today; instead, the Ministry of Education made the announcement via a televised press conference.


Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education

“Probably the most burning question is when will schools reopen and on this issue I advise that guidance for the reopening of schools will come from the National Oversight Committee based on the advice of health authorities.  Under the circumstances, let me point out that the reopening of schools before the end of the current school year is not guaranteed, therefore distance and home-based learning are expected to continue to varying degrees at different levels of education.”


At present, we remain in a national state of emergency which expires on May second.  Schools have been out since March twentieth in anticipation of the first COVID-19 case.  The number of confirmed cases has stalled at eighteen; however, government, through its various response agencies, will determine when schools can reopen.


Patrick Faber

“As we inch our way further and further along the calendar year and towards this final phase of our school’s calendar year, another pressing question at this time is, what is the plan for promotion and graduation of students? For preschool students, the ministry’s recommendation is as such: those first year preschool students, that is those children who are three-years-old, should be promoted to the four-year-old year and those students who are four-years-old, we are recommending, should receive their preschool certificates and transition into primary school.  For primary school students, and in accordance with Education Rule 128-2, all students from Infant One to Standard Five are expected to be promoted and schools are asked to provide special assistance for those students who require such during the upcoming school year.”


Standard Six students who satisfy the requirements for graduation will be allowed to participate in commencement exercises.  Promotions at the secondary level, for all intents and purposes, are also inevitable.


Patrick Faber

“As it relates to secondary school students, our schools are encouraged to provide all first to third form students with sufficient opportunities to advance to the next level of education and to provide, where it is necessary, remedial support on the reopening of school.  In other words, we promote these students from first to second form, if they are in first for, second to third form if they are in second form, third to fourth form if they are in third form and once they get into that new class, the remedial work of bringing them up to speed ought to be done post haste.”


As for national and regional examinations, including the Belize Junior Achievement Test, the Primary School Examinations and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, those too have been waived this school year.


Patrick Faber

“The Belize Junior Achievement Test, BJAT, will not be administered this academic year, but instead this exam will be used as a diagnostic tool for schools to use by administering it at the start of primary Standard Four.  The Primary School Examination, P.S.E., will not be administered this academic year.  The already printed examination scripts instead will be given to high schools and will be required for use in assessing the competence of their first form students so that targeted academic support can be provided to those who need it.  At the secondary and tertiary levels, Belize cannot participate in the 2020 sitting of CSEC and CAPE exams as presently scheduled.”


To that end, the Ministry of Education is in the process of dialoguing with stakeholders to agree on a possible date when those secondary and tertiary papers can be sat. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


We’ll have more from the Ministry of Education Press Conference later in the newscast.

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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