The Minister of Education has made several complaints lately about the University College of Belize. One was that they are producing more Masters in Business Administration degree graduates, than the number of businesses that exist in the country. Another complaint was that there are no courses in public administration for government hirees!
Accompany this with some statistics on education in Belize, published September 10th, 1999 in the Miami, Herald, of Florida. And there is no telling how many national newspapers of the USA bought this mass produced paper insert? You find that 50% of children in Belize NEVER finish elementary school. 66% of the children in Belize never get to High School. 25% of the population of Belize are functionally illiterate. And UCB is producing more MBA's than there are actual businesses.
Should UCB be scaled back? Should UCB be changed to a Community College? Should UCB produce more Associate Degrees with more diversified practical useful courses? Is there any sense in increasing the financial package they receive from Belmopan?
Interesting questions! If you have limited financial resources where should you spend them? Belmopan has to answer these questions and also devise ways of controlling content and output of higher education, by graduations of financial compensation, or contributions to autonomous higher educational institutions.
Recently, three years ago, the Community College system here in Dade County, Florida went through a veritable BLOODBATH. All caused by the cancellation of Welfare training subsidies that came from the Federal Government, through the State and to the County Community Colleges. The Dade County College system had exponential growth, but it all turned out to be false, based on quick sand. It was funded and orientated to Welfare training programs. Cancell the programs and the shrinkage was horrendous. Faculty let go! Downsizing everywhere. The cries of teachers and administration were heartrending. The careers and mortgages based on a cushy job with the government paid County College system, went flying out the window. Things have changed! Courses now, have to sustain themselves financially, they need to be public friendly and the number of campuses has increased to many smaller outlying campuses around the county. The major campuses are shrinking so fast, it looks like a couple of the big ones may be even closed down eventually completely, as they cost too much to run. The dollar effect and the budget are everyday concerns to administration now.
When we consider cause and effect in education, we must also take into account the statistics just printed above on education in Belize.
a) UCB is producing more MBA's than there are businesses in the country of Belize.So where would you spend your education money, if you were running things? I for one, would see that at least every district had one Regional modern library, with up to date technical magazines and a dozen or more internet connected computers. Saturday reading programs for groups and an active community participation program. As outlined in one of our early reports some years ago, on this same library. School groups would be encouraged to participate in planned suplementary learning programs that are fun! This means workshop training for librarians.
I would also diversify the elementary school programs with more practical subjects, as I earlier described we did in Caye Caulker RC School, in the 1960's.
I would also force scholarship higher education students, to spend a year in villages that were needy, teaching school subjects of many different kinds, more than the present fixed curriculum. What I would normally like to see at the High School, or Associate Degree level, I would bring down to the last two years of Elementary School. These kids need to be exposed, not necessarily pass exams. Just exposed to all kinds of learning and ideas that may be of use to them in practical ways. This in all 500 to 600 schools that are around the country.
Contrary to the status quo way of doing things by civil servants, I would draw up a list of elementary schools all over the nation and grade them by resources and competency. Then I would concentrate all my limited resources starting with the worst ones and work my way up the list. The usual practice by Belizean civil servants are to do only those schools of easy access by vehicle in a half day. This is unfair and unproductive. If the most remote mountain jungle school is the worst, then that is the one that gets the attention and upgrades first. So be it! Civil servants can't do that, then they are FREE to quit! Plenty of applicants out there who will do what is needed.
I would bring the Associate Degree courses and standards, or certifications, down to second, or third year high school level.
None of this type of education is going to agree with European standards of education. But to heck with them. We have a problem, we have a country and we need to find our own solutions.
I would not cut any of UCB financing, but neither would I increase it. And what they get would have strings attached, as to certifications and courses that had to be proved useful to Belize and not some far off mythical education system in some other country.
This should get a debate going. How do you do these things, or any other ideas, if you have them? Education and the Belize nation is actually in an educational crisis!