Education in Belize
UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"
"NATIONAL UNION OF
CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"
Education In Belize
students at Sacred Heart Primary School
The education system in Belize is has its roots in the
English system but has been greatly influenced by the U.S. academic syllabus
primarily through the influence of the Jesuits. It is no wonder that the best schools
in Belize are Roman Catholic. Students move through forms, from first form in
primary school to sixth form (junior college), although some schools, following
U.S. and Caribbean Community practices, use the grade system grades 1-12.
The Catholic Church, and to a lesser extent the
Methodists and Anglicans, through agreements with the government, operate most
of Belize’s premier public schools under Church-State partnership that
has its roots in Belize’s history as a British colony. Nearly two-thirds of
Belize’s population are teenagers or younger, so in every part of Belize you’ll
see school kids in their uniforms that vary from khaki, to blue to red
pinstripes, and yellow depending on the school. In Belize City and elsewhere,
there are both church and government-run primary and high schools.
A few private or parochial schools run by Protestant
and Evangelical denominations also exist. Some of the best schools are in
Belize City and in larger towns. Some of the more needy schools, with untrained
teachers and few books or equipment are in the far south. One study found that
lack of supplies was a major problem for schools in Toledo, and that about
one-half of the teachers in the district had no educational training beyond
high school. Only one in two Toledo children even finish primary school.
In 2014, more than 90,000 students were enrolled in
Belize schools and colleges at all levels, including almost 4,000 in
preschools, 63,000 in primary schools, and more than 15,000 in high schools.
Close to 6,000 students were in post-secondary studies.
Primary education is free and compulsory through age
14. However, a sizable minority of Belizean children do not complete primary
school. Only about 70% of teachers are professionally trained, but that number
is growing with recent amendments to the Education Act 2017 that aims at 100%
of all teachers being professionally trained as a requirement to obtain a
As of 2010, corporal punishment was prohibited in the
“51. (4) In accordance with subsection (2) of this
section, nothing in the statement of general principles and measures or
measures for regulating the conduct of students shall authorise
anything to be done in relation to a student which constitutes harassment,
intimidation, the administering of corporal punishment or any other actions
harmful to a student.”
Even teachers with four-year college degrees earn only
about US$1,000 a month. Secondary education, consisting of a four-year high
school, is competitive, requiring passage of a comprehensive exam. The
student’s percentile ranking on the admissions test in part determines which
school the student can attend. Charges for books and fees at secondary schools
are beyond the reach of many Belizean families.
About three-fourths of primary school students do go
on to secondary schools, though not all graduate. The typical tuition cost for
private schools in Belize is around US$20 per month. The Belize government pays
this tuition if the student is from a very needy family but this program has
become severely politicized and impractical for most poor students except those
very resourceful or connected with the local political apparatus
. The Belize Ministry of Education (headed by education minister Patrick
Faber) sucks up 30% of government’s recurrent revenue. But despite this, has
little to show in terms of keeping kids in school or uplifting the country’s
educational standards. Private schools are available in a few areas.
The Island Academy on Ambergris Caye,
as an example, which goes through grade 8, charges US$3,000 a year per student.
This school has a good reputation. Belize Elementary School, and the new Belize
High School in Belize City are among the best
private elementary schools on the mainland. Saint Catherine Academy for girls
and St. John’s High School for boys, both in Belize City, are recognized as
among the best high schools and are popular with expat families living in
Belize. But these are elite schools available only to the rich, connected, or
those expats working in Belize.
Belize also has community colleges and junior
colleges. Community colleges such as the Corozal
Community College, the Toledo Community College, and
Sacred Heart College in El Cayo, are usually higher
level institutions attached to existing secondary schools (high schools). These
colleges may have secondary school programs but also offer tertiary, post-high
school programs. Most are patterned after the “sixth form” in Britain. They
offer associate or two-year college degrees.
St. John’s Junior Coed College in Belize City has
educated many of Belize’s leaders. Corozal Junior
College in Corozal, Muffles College in Orange Walk
Town, and the Associate Program at the University of Belize in the City of
Belmopan are other examples (as of this writing UB is in a sorry mess and NOT
recommended by Belize.com), Corozal Junior College
and UB also offer evening and extension programs directed primarily to adults.
SJC which pioneered evening classes for adults, discontinued this program in
2011 to concentrate on its junior college.
Until the 1990s, Belize did not have a true four-year
university system. The colleges in Belize City and elsewhere were more like
U.S. high schools or two-year community colleges. However, in 2000, provisions
were made for the development of the University of Belize, which combines
several existing Belize educational facilities. A new private college, Galen
University, is in Cayo near San Ignacio and as an
accredited institution, is giving the government run University Of Belize
serious competition.. The University of the West
Indies also offers courses at its campus in Belize City. In addition, several
small offshore medical schools have set up base
The Cost Of Education
A sampling of education costs in Belize. All figures
are in US dollars:
Public schools (often run by the Catholic Church):
Free except for uniforms & books
Island Academy, San Pedro -private school: $3,000+ a year
Saint Catherine’s Academy, Belize City: $500 a year
(tuition & fees)
Mount Carmel High School, Benque Viejo: $300 a year
University of Belize, Belmopan and Belize City: $675
(tuition for 15 credit hours) per semester for Belizean citizens and permanent
residents; $1,350 for students from developing countries; $2,025 for students
from developed countries; all plus fees of $210 per semester and plus living
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