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Feb 26, 1998

Teachers speak out on proposed rules

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While villagers and citrus workers in the south take their concerns to the streets, in Belize City the floor of the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall was the stomping ground for some teachers who had a mouthful to say about a set of proposed rules they will soon have to live by.

It was a meeting of the Belize City branch of the Belize National Teachers Union. But as the meeting began it quickly became clear that it was not going to be an easy afternoon for Chief Education Officer Ernest Raymond who was invited as a guest speaker.

The teachers who packed Holy Redeemer Parish Hall for this afternoon’s meeting were in a testy mood – at issue was the Ministry of Education’s set of draft education rules. While the teachers say they are not against the idea, there are specific areas of the document that are troublesome to them.

Enita Castillo, Gwen Lizarraga High School

“From what I have seen, the wording of the proposal is so ambiguous so that if it is left to somebody who might have some kind of problem with another person that person can use it to his advantage, interpretations can be many. So for example, the language is definitely one problem.”

Isabel Tun, Belize Technical College

“I don’t see any areas there for research, I don’t see any areas for professional development. I see exactly what they are called, rules. And oppressive ones at that.”

But the chief education officer, the man in the hot seat today, tried as best he could to convince the teachers not to be swayed by interpretations that are made in a vacuum and that in time, the proposals will be explained to them in lay man’s language.

Ernest Raymond, Chief Education Officer

“But as far as we are aware, the wording is such that to some extent assist in the process of not making it too wide in terms of its interpretation. I think an understanding of the rules will have to be carried out through public meetings, seminars, workshops, whatever it is, so that managing authorities, teachers, and the general public would understand the meaning of the rules but more importantly will be in a position to appreciate their significance and what those rules can do for the improvement of education in Belize.”

But while all agree that something needs to be done to improve education in Belize, some teachers are feeling left out in the cold on a issue that will have a profound effect on their profession.

Isabel Tun

“Right now I think we are looking specifically at the applicability of licensing as a means of upgrading teachers qualifications also we are concerned that the rules are not applicable from pre-school to the tertiary level.”

Ernest Raymond

“There are some common standards that can be applied to all levels of the system and I think that’s what we want to put in place. I don’t think we should have a set of rules that suits only primary but not pre-school, or not secondary as it relates to the issue of the quality of teachers, I think that should be non-negotiable and as such should be a fundamental principle of any rule, that it be applicable to all levels based on those common features.”

Raymond says that what the teachers need to do is to look at the broader picture of what impact these draft proposals will have on the future of nation’s education system.

Ernest Raymond

“Unfortunately they have to be put in the form of rules and rules by their very nature gives a negative meaning and or connotation hence I guess the emotional reaction to the whole issue of rules. The general idea is that rules will prevent, will constrict, will limit. That is not the intention. Rules here are intended to create an environment that makes teaching and learning more interesting, more safe.”

But until those goals are achieved it is clear that the way ahead will not be an easy one for those in charge of Belize’s education system. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

The series of consultations on the draft education rules is expected to be completed by the third week of March.

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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