Belize is to launch its first fully fledged online high school. This Friday morning at the Belize Comprehensive High School, Ethnalda Paulino, a retired teacher and founder of Belize’s first online high school, Kaina, held a workshop with her prospective staff members.
The purpose of the workshop is to train teachers and equip them with the necessary skills to be able to manage an online class. But why an online school in the first place? Ms. Ethnelda Paulino explained to us how she came up with the idea and why she felt it necessary.
“I have been noticing that here in Belize, there are many students who do not get an opportunity to complete high school or to even start attending a high school. It is too expensive, and our young men do not particularly like being confined to the classroom. So, it occurred to me that an online high school would be something that would really help our Belizean children. it would bring them back to high school; it would help them to earn a high school diploma, thereby giving them access to tertiary level education. What we have done is to put the entire school on Moodle, which is what the session today and tomorrow will be about. We are teaching the instructors how you put your courses online and how you interact with your students without having them in a classroom. So, it’s going to be a Moodle Platform that we are setting up”.
Mr. Antonio Crespo, a member of the ICT Department at the University of Belize, is assisting Ms. Paulino with his technical expertise.
According to Mr. Crespo, Kaina Online High School will fully embrace the advantages of modern technology as they will be advocating the use of online videos, online chat-rooms and remote desktops to teach their curriculum. But wouldn’t it be a bit too challenging for students who have not yet been exposed to this kind of technology? The pedagogue concedes that it will be challenging at first, however, the facilitators will be there to walk their students through the process of adapting to this new system. After doing so, he says the students should have no problem at all.
Mr. Antonio Crespo- Technical Assistant
“It will demand a little bit of attention and logical thinking. Once they get familiarized with the system, it will not be difficult at all. Today, we are peopling our society who might be afraid of technology or who might not have exposure to technology. However, the reality is that practically everybody in Belize, knows about technology, how to operate a cellphone, how to browse the internet and that’s all that is needed for this program”.
Mr. Antonio Crespo: “There is the online system that provides with several tools and features to interact with their student and the facilitators will get to know a student so well that differences when they submit something that is not theirs, will be easy to notice”.
Some might note that a very large percentage of individuals who need these kinds of opportunities might not have access to the internet- namely in the rural areas of the country. Dr. Alberita Enriquez, co-founder and assistant director of Kaina, said they are working relentlessly to overcome this challenge.
“We are in the process on seeing how BTL can help in that way. Ms. Paulino has already started communicating with BTL and maybe provide access to students in Rural Areas”.
Ms. Ethnelda Paulino: “At this point we will develop the courses. Each teacher is developing his or her courses. We are going to have four years of High School and wherever the student comes in, it’s going to be with us. If a student dropped out of third form, he brings in his transcript, we assess that, the student takes it from there until he graduates from fourth form”.
Dion Rodriguez, an Associate Director for Path Light International was a notable member of this morning’s workshop since the said entity has been known to assist students through scholarships. We asked him how involved Path Light International will become with this new school system.
“We are still studying how it progressed, and depends on how it will go, then we will be a part of it”.
Reporter: “So far, how do you see the program from what you have learnt today?”
Mr. Dion Rodriguez: “It seems very interesting, very exciting; it provides a lot of opportunities, especially for students who would like to continue their education. So, this will afford a lot of people, [even parents] who would like to finish their High School Diploma and progress from there to college”.
Ms. Ethnelda Paulino: “I would really and truly like the youth and any body who has never been to high school, who had started high school and could not complete it, to call us, to get in touch with us and to become a part of this process”.
Kaina will be charging $300 per semester and it will involve all the relevant courses like a regular High School and will also offer some electives like Agriculture, Clothing and Textiles, Grooming, and Food and Nutrition. According to Paulino, Kaina Online High School is expected to start running in January of next year.