Belize’s educational system is based largely on the English system with American influences introduced by immigrating Jesuits. Instead of a grade system from 1st to 12th grade like in the American educational system, Belize’s system is labeled a bit differently.
Levels of Education
The first levels of education in Belize are Infant 1 and Infant 2, which would be equivalent to Kindergarten and 1st Grade in the United States. 2nd grade to 7th grade is called Standard 1 to Standard 6 in Belize. High school classes in Belize are labelled 1st Form through 4th Form, which is the equivalent of 8th Grade through the 11th Grade in the States. Following 4th Form in Belize, students would then go to a Junior College (Sixth Form) for their Associate’s Degree then on to Graduate School where they complete either a Bachelor’s or Master’s program.
Most schools in Belize are operated under Catholic, Anglican or Methodist denomination. Almost all primary and high schools in Belize use a uniform. Only Junior Colleges and Universities do not use uniforms.
Most of the better schools with fully trained teachers are located in Belize City and the larger towns in the country. In small southern villages, most teachers don’t have formal training and many of the children in these villages don’t even finish primary school.
According to the 2012-2013 statistics released by Belize’s Ministry of Education, there were approximately 105,221 students enrolled from pre-school to university level. Of that amount, 7,400 students were enrolled in pre-school, 68,812 students were enrolled in primary school, 20,539 were enrolled in secondary school, 3,818 were enrolled in junior college and 4,652 were enrolled in university.
On average, there are 23 students to a teacher in primary school; and an average of 16 students to a teacher in high school.
Discipline in the Classrooms
In 2010, corporal punishment in the classrooms was prohibited in Belize’s Education Act. Part 10 section 41(7 ) of the Act states that “nothing in this section authorises anything to be done in relation to a pupil which contributes the giving of corporal punishment defined as physical punishment and the threat of it to include, but not limited to, hitting the child with the hand or with an object (such as a cane, belt, whip, shoe, etc.); kicking, shaking, or throwing the child, pinching or pulling a child’s hair; forcing a child to stay in uncomfortable or undignified positions, or to take excessive physical exercise; burning or scarring a child; psychological punishment to include but not limited to humiliating or degrading a child through verbal abuse, ridicule, isolation, or ignoring the child”.
Secondary Education in Belize is very competitive and along with a high cost, admission depends largely on students’ grades on a national comprehensive exam – PSE (Primary School Examination). The PSE examination is based on the following subjects: English, Math, Social Studies and Science.
There is another examination all students in the nation need to take when finishing high school, the CXC exams- a regional examination sat by students from across the Caribbean. This examination covers a wide range of subject, about 33 of them. In Belize, students are expected to sit and pass at least 6 for acceptance to a tertiary level institution within the country or larger Caribbean.
Cost of Education in Belize
The cost of education in Belize can range from ridiculously cheap (public primary schools) to very costly (private schools). Some public schools like St. Joseph Primary School have tuition set at about US $35 per semester. Rates can go up to as high as US $3,000 per year in a private primary school.
High School prices range about US $500 a year for tuition and fees. While Universities charge about US $675 per semester (approximately 15 credit hours).
Higher Education Institutions
There are many community colleges located all across Belize. In the North there is Corozal Community College and Muffles Community College. Belize City has St. John’s Junior College and Wesley Junior College. In the West, there is Sacred Heart Junior College, and Toledo Community College in the South. Each of the above mentioned institutions offer two year post -high school programs or Associate’s Degrees; and most are attached to a High School. These institutions are modeled after Britain’s “Sixth Forms”.
To see a full list of all the educational institutions in Belize, visit the Ministry of Education’s website.