Saturday, June 20, 2009

Girl from Western Belize wins National Primary School exam.


“we are PROUD OF Demi!”

Demi Bellini is 14 years old and as articulate on the evening television news, as expressive as any bombastic politician on a rostrum. She made us proud and listen in awe, as she gave her succinct address. The PSE exam used nationwide, to gauge the success or failure of schools and teachers is an important educational national test, to see if students have absorbed the foundation of needed education.
She received the Jane and Michael Nembhard Award, which is a four year scholarship to high school. High School is not free in Belize. In many cases, not even primary school is free. Demi also received a computer and a printer.
6,856 primary school students ( our Standard 6 – the American and Canadian Grade 8 ) took the exam nationwide. Not all students took the exam. Demi attended the Belmopan school called the OUR LADY OF GAUDALUPE RC SCHOOL. This is the capital of Belize, a city of about 7000 people. She topped the test with a score of 380 out of 400. The top 26 performers nationwide all scored in the upper 300’s.
Primary schools throughout Belize are usually privately owned and supported by 80% of the costs supplied by the education department budget. Most schools, but not all, are owned by one religious cult, or another. Brainwashing and indoctrination of students is considered basic for various religious cults. We have many religious varieties in Belize.
On the PSE Exam for primary school graduation, mathematics was the most difficult subject. Most primary schools do not have qualified teachers. Over 80% of Belizean children attending primary schools do not even finish the Standard 6, or Grade 8 level. They quit a lot earlier than that and are pretty much lost to the development of Belize. The majority of primary school teachers are not real teachers and are not qualified by any standard of measurement. You use who is available to teach in remote rural communities and villages. Children often teach children. Good exam marks depend a lot on a trained enthusiastic teacher, along with very supportive parents. Most primary schools in rural parts do not have these things. Schools are usually overcrowded. 70% of students actually taking the PSE exam actually fail. The grades are usually D and lower. While primary school education in Belize is very bad. Compared to countries like Honduras and Nicaragua, our school system is ranked very good in comparison. Everything is relative. Some schooling is better than no schooling. We do what we can with what we have in Belize!
Statistically speaking, 43% of teachers at primary school level in Belize have an Associate Degree but no actual teacher training. Even at High School level, only 31% of teachers are actually qualified by any teacher training standard. It is not uncommon in rural parts of the districts to see children coming to school barefoot. On the offshore islands along the barrier reef, this is a normal environmental dress code in soft island sands. I myself taught school on the barrier reef island in the 1960s dressed in a set of bathing trunks and barefoot. It was an idyllic romantic tropical paradise. In the remote jungle clad hills of the Toledo District, mud and high rainfall, poisonous snakes and such hazards make this a less than satisfactory situation. In many rural communities children come to school very hungry, even in the port of Belize City.

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