Education - School System
The Belizean school system was a loose aggregate of education subsystems. The system was based on British education and was broken into three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Belizean children began their eight years of primary education with two years of "infant" classes, followed by six "standards." Secondary education was divided into four "forms." Sixth form was a two-year postsecondary course, originally intended to prepare students for the Cambridge Advanced or "A-Level" examinations. Since the early 1970s, sixth-form institutions have also bestowed Associate of Arts degrees sanctioned by the United States Association of Junior Colleges.
Other postsecondary institutions included Belize Teachers' College, the Belize School of Nursing, and the Belize College of Agriculture, in addition to UCB. Belize contributes to and participates in the multinational University of the West Indies. The University of the West Indies also maintained a small extramural department in Belize City.
Management of the system varied according to level. In the latter half of the 1980s, religious denominations controlled the majority of primary schools, but the government or private, community-based boards of governors administered more than 50 percent of the secondary institutions. The preponderance of government institutions at the secondary level was a relatively new development; as recently as 1980, the majority of secondary schools were under religious management. Still, denominational representatives retained considerable influence on the managing boards of private, ostensibly nondenominational, institutions.
Secondary schools also differed according to curriculum and cultural orientation. Most private and denominational schools emphasized academic and commercial studies, although some also offered technical-vocational programs. In contrast, the government directly managed nine schools, all of which offered a curriculum oriented to technical-vocational subjects.
In terms of cultural orientation, educational practices, rituals, and valuative criteria spread to Belize's schools from Jesuit institutions in the United States. Jesuit influence even affected such traditional bastions of British pedagogy as the Anglican and Methodist secondary schools and the government-run Belize Technical College. Nearly thirty years of Peace Corps and other United States volunteer teachers have also influenced Belizean educational culture. Technical-vocational education programs by the United States Agency for International Development promise to erode further British pedagogical legacies.
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