Who Will Improve Our schools? 8

By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant

We don’t have the best possible Education System in Belize today to prepare our children to live in this era of advanced technology. Before we can create one, though, we must first “want it”! Sadly, Education Systems in Belize have not been developed due to the overwhelming apathy from parents, educators, and the government towards constantly improving our schools. As in most third-world countries, the Education we provide our children in Belize today is what it was 50+ years ago. But my grandchildren should not have to study the same curriculum that I studied in high school in the mid 1960’s, or take the same non-Belizean-made exams that I had to take. We cannot continue educating our young people the same way we have always done it. In Colonial times many foreigners (Catholic nuns, priest, scholastics, and volunteers from abroad) helped to educate our people. Now, though, we are independent. We must discard that old Colonial mentality under which our parents and grandparents lived: “what worked for us will work for you”. 21st Century Belize is no longer “if the world had any ends, Belize would be one”. We are living in a new millennium, and we must adapt to a new way of living! We now live with several television and radio stations, computers, cell phones, internet, and a thousand new inventions that did not exist when I attended school.

The time is now, not tomorrow, for us (not others) to develop and improve our schools. Regardless of which political party is in power, we need strategic assistance to improve each primary and secondary school in Belize. (One type school is not for everyone.) We need year-round, professional coaching services for all school leaders and Principals. After all, for our schools to improve, we first must strengthen their leadership! Our primary and secondary schools are currently overloaded with thousands of young students who must stifle creativity to Colonial era mentalities, i.e. let each church steer its school’s guiding principles. Yes, we are greatly indebted to the churches in Belize for the great role they have each played in developing Education in this country. However, churches should not be solely responsible for the development of Education in an independent country.

Who today develops our nation’s educational program designs? What are the government plans for the constant development and improvement of our schools? No faculty and staff of any school, public or private, should be expected to develop professionally “when they can afford it”. In this new age of technology we need in our schools professionals who are qualified and responsible for developing the school’s improvement services, teacher assessments, and all improvement planning. Overworked Principals cannot develop/administer a school, and also look out for and monitor the professional development of each teacher. Principals are not supermen or superwomen! We need professionals to monitor teacher training and improvement, team building, and educational strategic planning; we sorely need economic professionals to set annual teachers’ salaries and school budgets.

Our Ministry of Education needs to focus on school leadership in schools throughout the entire country. Schools leaders, after all, are the ones who are steering the ships that contain the future leaders of our country. We need strong school leaders and Principals who can develop and implement and make public their plans to,

  • vigorously develop a faculty culture focused on professional development 
  • give continuous public, positive reinforcement to educators and students
  • promote continuous high expectations and support for students
  • establish ongoing professional development for staff
  • promote high expectations tailored to each single student 
  • demonstrate a commitment to the school’s mission 
  • sustain high levels of self-awareness and self-management 
  • develop their own professional growth programs 

We cannot encourage and develop faculty cultures that focus on professional growth and development when all we have in our schools are so many overworked and underpaid teachers. They have every right to complain and bicker for decent living wages; but that will drown their genuine devotion to learning, sharing, and supporting each other. Without a doubt, teachers in our schools today do want to find ways to improve the quality of teaching. Nevertheless, the dominating discussions in faculty rooms in schools throughout Belize everyday probably have very little to do with helping our young students to develop a passion for learning. More pressing topics (how will I pay rent, get school supplies for my classroom, pay my water and light bill, and survive this month) are the immediate concerns of teachers in our schools today.

I am confident that we know what it takes to make exceptional school leaders. However, knowing how to get “what it takes” is the urgent step facing parents and educators in Belize today. Above all, though, we first must have a plan. Sadly, the overwhelming apathy and poverty in Belize continues to impede what we need to do to develop our Education Systems. Nevertheless, let’s not expect nor wait for outsiders to develop our Education systems. Let us unite as inspirational leaders and educators to develop unique Belizean skills in our Youth. Let us strive to live and develop in all possible ways as leaders of our proud jewel.

Author’s Note:

These articles on Education are not intended to be comprehensive or complete. They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable discussion amongst educators, students, and the community. When we discuss and review students’ learning capabilities and the ways in which we currently try to educate them, we learn from our mistakes as well as success. Here’s to fining the best path to follow, fellow educators!

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About Gustavo Ramirez

Gustavo A. Ramirez is an educationist with many years of experience in the field of education. He has worked in capacities as teacher and guidance counselor in secondary schools since 1978, and has been instrumental in incubating and nurturing guidance counseling through systems, curricula and people development, both in Belize and the United States. He writes several columns dealing with the constant need for adapting and embracing “change” in Belize’s Education systems. Ramirez holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology (Guidance Counseling) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin. He attended Holy Redeemer Boys School, St. John‘s College, and St. Michael’s College (Sixth Form/Junior College) in Belize City.

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