Ministry of Education Discusses Financial Reform

comprehensive HighThis morning the Belize City press sat down with officials of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports including Minister Patrick Faber to review latest developments in education.

This included proposals to revise and streamline fee schemes in high schools, school subsidies and grants and payment of examination fees for students taking the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.

According to Minister Faber, the Ministry must not only talk social justice, it must do social justice. Here’s how he describes the benefits of the Ministry’s proposals.

vlcsnap-2014-02-04-18h34m58s30Hon. Patrick Faber- Minister of Education, Youth and Sports

 “What these initiatives have in common, there are three messages that I would like you to take away today from our interaction:

 1.      The philosophy of social justice that underpins all these efforts and indeed, the broader efforts of the government of Belize.  The efforts are all aimed at creating a more just equitably just society.

2.      These reforms are targeted to those as having social economic need, those who are socially economically excluded and those who are marginalized. The beneficiaries of these reforms will be objectively determined.  Today, you will be hearing more about the Proxy Means Test, the Household Survey used to identify beneficiaries. This is an objective means of targeting and it ensures that the beneficiaries are truly the ones in needs (notice no politics, no red or blue, no “if your ma or your pa vote fuh UDP or PUP”.  Objective means of targeting”.

xaibe schoolThe proposals outlined by the Ministry, Faber said, will move more Belizeans even closer to an equitable and socially just society. For the first time, the socio-economic and academic needs of students in all schools will be accounted for, and the Ministry will cooperate with its sister Ministry of Human Development to determine objectively where the greatest need is.

The Minister also took time to reaffirm the Ministry’s commitment to working with the teachers in the aftermath of January’s nationwide rally tour.

Hon. Patrick Faber:  “The ministry remains committed to working with the BNTU.   I know that that is something that you have a great concern; a lot has been said by Union officials on the Union’s Rostrums and the Podiums of these rallies.  Let me assure you that as the head of the Ministry of Education, that I don’t take any of it personal that in fact, Winston Churchill once advised that when there are these types of events, (and of course, he was talking about war and I am not talking about war) you don’t get distracted by all of this noise and trying to defend although some would accuse me of that, but from now we are on track and I am hoping that sharing this initiative with you will help us to move forward beca8use we waste time defending and defending and defending, getting distracted from where we want to go. This Ministry has a focus, has a plan, we will follow that plan and we hope that we can count on you, very important partners and stakeholders in our efforts to improve education as we move forward.  Thank you”.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry, David Leacock, provided an outline stating that the Ministry wished to achieve justice in its provisions for all schools over a 7 year period. In that time, schools found to be above-average in funding would have their funding reduced gradually, while those who are below would have theirs raised based on a specific formula.

The CEO later described to us the situation with school fees that led to the decision.

vlcsnap-2014-02-04-21h38m45s220Mr. David Leacock- Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry

“The schools feel that they charge for all kinds of things from supplementary fees to just about anything.  What has happened over the years is that almost without fail, every school used to increase their fees and although the law says that they should ask for permission as of one year’s notice, in many instances, that would not be informed.  When the Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, put a moratorium on the increases of  fees, basically we were informed that there cannot be any increase until we come out with a standardized system.  The way the structure is made, it is hard for us to make an application, but when we make an application, we would like to increase fees in a justifiable way.  So, what we are proposing is a standard fee which will cover everything”.

Work on the school fees will finish by August, and the two Ministries are partnering to run a household survey exercise that would visit all schools and homes seeking economic and educational data. (end)

About the Author