REPORT #345 July 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

The TRUSTEE of the Belize Development Trust of Caye Caulker, Belize announced that the Government of Belize must reconsider the way education is keeping up with meeting the challenges of the new technological age.

It is not enough to just educate students. While primary schools are the major problem in Belize with current education, the type and quality of that education must keep pace with a rapidly changing world economy.

The time when a High School Education was the top qualification in Belize has gone. Nor today, does a Masters, or Phd suffice in this new century. The idea that an academic degree will serve a Belizean graduate for a lifetime is gone. In the course of the lifetime of the average Belizean today, they will have to have many different jobs, in a variety of industries, as these change, fail or become obsolete and are replaced by new ones. Industries will come and go more rapidly.

Citizens, education officials, teachers and politicians must all come together regularly to develop appropriate standards for teaching information technology skills in the classroom, or at home via the internet.

Right now, even the USA are finding problems with schools and educators, who are defining the requirements of education and information seeking skills in too narrow a format. Incorporating new technologies in Belize, must be more than just running fiber optic lines to villages and local wireless networks for standardized internet communications. Wiring classrooms in new school rooms and old ones are not enough. Distance learning and new searching skills for culling appropriate information are just as important.

If Belize is to translate education and the transformation of all this new access to expertise and knowledge from around the world, via chat rooms, list serves and e-mail contact with experts into ECONOMIC VALUE for Belizeans and the Government revenue resources; then more than typing skills and how to search the internet are needed.

Local regional educational councils, the government in Belmopan, labor unions, business people and NGO's need to figure out standards on how to keep Belizeans going back to school and learn a wide range of skills over their working lifetimes.

In the older days, learning one trade was usually enough. In the last 20 years, the pace of change meant rural people had to learn about seven different trades in one lifetime. The future seems to indicate that Belizeans are going to have to learn many more trades than that and a lot of it will have to be self-taught, or through ongoing adult education programs via Distance Learning programs within Belize, offered by our Educational establishment.

Getting internet service to the 300 communities of Belize and teaching keyboard typing and information superhighway searching skills are only the beginning of the challenges facing Belizean Educators today. Turning the new wealth of knowledge into economic returns for individuals is the next step.

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