Alumnus and Minister of Education in Belize Meets with VSU toExpand Exchange and Outreach Programs

November 4, 2010

Alumnus and Minister of Education in Belize Meets with VSU toExpand Exchange and Outreach Programs

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University Alumnus Honorable Patrick Faber, Minister of Education and member of the Parliament of Belize, returned to his alma mater Friday, Nov. 5, to meet with the campus community about ways to strengthen the bond between VSU and educational institutions in his homeland. He also met with Belize residents studying at Valdosta State with the intent of retuning to Belize to share expertise in a range of fields -- from music to business.

Valdosta State is one of 19 American universities invested in the Consortium for Belize Educational Cooperation (COBEC) -- a consortium of educational organizations created in the late 1980s to identify and execute collaborative efforts in research, exchanges, pedagogy, curricular and library development. Faber, the youngest member of the Belizean House of Representative, said his country’s educational structure has made great strides in the past several years. The democratic constitutional monarchy's primary focus is to improve teacher training and access to education for poorer areas of the Central American country.

“Because many of our teachers hold associate degrees in other fields but have not been trained in instructional pedagogy, the government has established certificate programs focused on classroom management,” said Faber, who graduated with a Bachelor in Arts in Economics in 1998. “We have also initiated subsidy programs to help students pay for schools, which, in Belize, are managed by churches while the government pays teachers’ salaries.”

A Beneficial Union
Faber said that although Belize spends the second highest amount on secondary education among Central American countries, about 60 percent of children do not receive the education they deserve -- primarily due to a lack of expertise to infuse technology, implement new trainings, and restructure ineffective programs. Relationships with VSU and other institutions -- from book drives to online library instruction -- have helped Belize integrate dynamic theories and organizational improvements. Belize has, in turn, shared its vibrant culture and outlooks with its educational partners in the United States.

“Earlier this year, we enacted the Education and Training Bill 2010, which introduced the Teaching Services Commission -- a body assigned to establish standards for hiring and firing teachers throughout the country, rather than leaving it up to each specific church school,” Faber said. “We also voted to end corporal punishment in schools, so the influence of U.S. educators’ outlook on classroom management will greatly assist teachers in effective discipline techniques.”

Cultural Perspective
Music student, Chris Bradshaw, came to VSU from Belize. The saxophone player said he hopes to take his expertise in musical theory and instruction techniques back home to educate teachers about the importance of the arts. Bradshaw stresses that collaborations, such as the one with VSU, should be based on cultural understanding.

“We have had several aid organizations send instruments without taking into consideration that the teachers and students do not know how to play them. Instruments fall into disrepair after a few years,” Bradshaw said. “Professors at VSU seem eager to work with us and people who know our country to avoid problems like this. I am excited to return to open students to the world of music.”

Student Participation
Students Karlo Romero and Davin Carrillo are among the active Belize community who want to start a formal student group to help ease the transition to the United States for Belize students. Romero also said that many of their families in Belize would be willing to host exchange students from the United States.

Irina McClellan, VSU’s International Student Advisor, said the Belize students are among the friendliest and most academically dedicated students with whom she works.

“Belize is one of the friendliest countries in the world, and their people have a warmth about them, and they have brought it to Valdosta State,” McClellan said. “It is so wonderful to see that all parties involved are excited to help them in their desire to educate themselves and make their country a better place.”