Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Economy, Education, People & Places » Building Foundations for the Future
Aug 23, 2023

Building Foundations for the Future

On August ninth, the Government of Belize, UNICEF, and Think Equal Inc. launched the Think Equal Program in Belize, introducing innovative methods of teaching social and emotional learning in the early grades.  But what does it mean for the effort to bring to an end discrimination and violence in Belize?  Tonight’s Five Point Breakdown looks at Think Equal and its benefits to the education curriculum.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Ending discrimination, as well as the cycle of violence, begins with teaching social and emotional learning to infants between three and six years old.  This is the best opportunity to modify attitudes, values and behaviors, based on scientific evidence.  It is also a critical aspect of early childhood development, where kids meet age-related milestones and school readiness.


Think Equal: The Origin Story


Leslee Udwin

Leslee Udwin, Founder, Think Equal

“The idea of changing of mindset as being the only way that we really can move the world forward to a better place, came from a very unusual and dark journey that I undertook in my former life, as it were, as a filmmaker.  I went to India to cover a very gruesome, brutal story of a young girl, a medical student who was gang-raped and murdered, raped in a moving bus in Delhi.  It was a very infamous story and really stopped the conscience of the world.”


On the night of December sixteenth, 2012, a physiotherapy student was sexually assaulted, in succession, by a group of men in India.  “Nirbhaya”, as she was known, was then murdered. The terrible incident set off a wave of protests nationally and internationally.


Leslee Udwin

“And in the course of making this documentary, I sat in prison cells and I interviewed the perpetrators of this crime and I came to understand very clearly that these men weren’t the animals and the psychopaths that I was expecting to meet.  They were normal ordinary human beings who had been taught the wrong things.  They had been programmed, like robots, to consider that certain people, certain genders, certain castes, were of less value than they were.”


This profound observation would eventually give rise to Think Equal, a global initiative founded by British filmmaker turned human rights activist, Leslee Udwin.  Through that organization, governments, policymakers and school networks are asked to adopt social and emotional learning as part of their curriculum.


Why Is Think Equal Important


Denise Robateau

Denise Robateau, ECD Officer, UNICEF

“When we look along the continuum, we are just excited that for the ages of three to six years, we are investing in Think Equal which is a social and emotional learning program that helps our children to understand identity, to have self-esteem, to grow in the knowledge that each person is different, each person is individual, each person is special.”


In Belize, where there are many races, ethnicities, and cultures, how can we teach our children math and science, as compulsory subjects, and not teach them how to value another human being for their similarities and differences?  The Belize Education Sector Plan includes three priority areas.


How Does Think Equal Fit Into The Existing Curriculum?


Dian Maheia

Dian Maheia, C.E.O., Ministry of Education

“The plan, as you know, covers key, strategic areas that we want to achieve.  One of those areas, for example, is transforming teaching and learning.  When we look at that, we see that the think equal program works for us with curriculum development, it works with supporting teachers in elevating their profession and building their needs.  We see that in the area of prioritizing underserved sectors that Think Equal helps us with developing, it serves for students with special needs, it helps us with reducing vulnerability for students in different areas.”


Beyond the program being inculcated into the national curriculum are the problems in our society today.  For Udwin, Think Equal is necessary because it seeks to address the issues that are endemic in humanity.


Leslee Udwin

“The disease we are dealing with in our societies, when we look at [it], this goes far beyond genders.  This is about religious bigotry, it’s about racism, it’s about violence of all forms.  It’s about wars.  When we contemplate how we are going to change this world, you know, the disease we are dealing with isn’t the violence.  That’s the symptom of the disease.  The disease is the mindset, the disease is the discrimination that says you are of lesser value than me, and every country in the world, to some degree, has these hidden discriminations and they are passed on generationally and cyclically from parents to children.”


Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology and Think Equal, a partnership was made official to provide all children in Infant 1 and Infant 2 access to learn social and emotional skills with the use of Think Equal curriculum.  This was facilitated by UNICEF.


How Was Think Equal Introduced in Belize?


Alison Parker

Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative, Belize

“For us, looking at the partnership we have with Think Equal, the five to seven year olds, even if we can get them younger, is going to be crucial in how we advance our next generation of citizens.  And so, that’s how the conversation evolved from the transforming education summit last year convened by the UN Secretary General calling on all member states to recommit to the education agenda following the devastating impact of COVID-19, especially in the Latin American region.  And that’s how the conversation evolved and we are really pleased that today, it’s not just a commitment, it’s not just an SDG goal, it has to be an SDG action.  And so, the partnership with Think Equal is part of that action that we are translating the goals to.”


Admittedly, government officials were somewhat doubtful at first; however, after carefully going through the proposal, as well as the accompanying courses, it was given the stamp of approval.


Government Green Lights Think Equal Curriculum


Dian Maheia

“When this proposal came to us, it came to us, you know, already saying we are ready to do this, we have funding for this and our first response was, “Okay, we need to learn more.  We need to figure this out.”  But as we went through, we walked through it, we looked at it, we realized that working with this is going to help us on so many different levels and that’s really what’s brought us to this point is that recognition.  The value of the program, the fact that it matches with the goals that we have outlined in our Belize Education Sector Plan and that we believe that it will help us to meet the vision and the long-term objectives of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology.”


Isani Cayetano 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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed