Monday, July 27, 2015: By Deacon Cal: I will define non-privileged children as children who do not receive sufficient help in learning school work from their family. Children living below the poverty line, children living in a dysfunctional family, children living with non-educated parents and children living with parents who do not speak or understand English are generally non-privileged children.
Does anyone doubt that the majority of the children who passed the PSE are privileged children and the majority of the children who failed the PSE are non-privileged children?
From 1999 to 2011, national governments of four major English speaking nations (the UK, the US, Scotland and Australia) produced research evidence that supported the teaching of learning how to read by sounding out words. The research showed that learning how to read by sounding out words was the only way to teach “at risk” or “non-privileged” children.
The Ministry of Education has made and is making decisions that have hurt and will hurt our non-privileged children’s learning how to read.
This opinion paper is a history of what the Ministry of Education has done to our non-privileged children’s learning how to read for the past eight years and the possible effect that it had on the PSE results for this past year and the effect that their actions will have on the PSE in the years to come.
The reason why close to 50% of our children did not pass the PSE in 2015 is because the Government of Belize/Ministry of Education took an action for the school year 2007-2008 that hurt our non-privileged children’s learning how to read.
Our present primary school graduating class began school in September 2007. That was the first year of the Free Textbook Program. Those of us who can remember the months after the Government’s book list was first published will remember the outcry made by most of the teachers, principals and managers. The outcry was loudest against the Ministry of Education’s/Government of Belize’s choice of reading books for the Infant Division. Most the teachers, administrators and managers wanted to use BRC’s reading books because BRC’s reading books taught children how to read by sounding out words.
The Ministry of Education/Government of Belize, ignored the teachers, administrators and managers. They also ignored the research of four major nations and forced its reading books on our children. The Government’s choice of reading books taught children to memorize words and sentences and apply some phonics.
They did a similar thing in math. Most of the teachers wanted to use BRC’s math books that gave a lot of practice. Instead the Ministry of Education/Government of Belize forced Caribbean Primary Math books on our children.
Children who do not have a good foundation in reading and math in the Infant Division have a difficult time learning enough to pass the PSE.
The unsatisfactory results of the 2015 PSE are the results of the Ministry of Education’s/Government of Belize’s hurting our children’s foundation in reading and math in 2007. That was done by the previous Government.
We cannot make great improvement in the PSE results until we get all children, including the non-privileged children, reading well. The Ministry of Education officials at QADS and UB must not have any idea of how difficult it is to teach children how to read when they do not have parental help. A large majority of our children are learning English as a second language. That adds to the difficulty of teaching our children how to read.
Belize’s children will have serious learning problems for the next eight years due to the Ministry of Education’s mistakes and decisions that are a result of their lack of knowledge of how to teach the non-privileged. The present Ministry of Education has hurt and is hurting our non-privileged children’s reading due to their refusal to listen to teachers and managers.
Children who entered school in 2007 and graduated in this past year 2015:
It has been explained what the past Ministry of Education/GOB did to our Infant Division non-privileged children’s learning how to read and do math. We could identify the schools that performed well on this year’s PSE. Many of the Catholic and Anglican schools will be at the top of the best performing schools. In 2007, many of the Catholic and most of the Anglican schools defied the Government of Belize/Ministry of Education and used BRC’s reading and math books.
Children who entered school in 2008 and will graduate in 2016:
No changes were made in the books our children used. There will be little improvement in the PSE results in 2016, unless they change the PSE. The same schools will be at the top but fewer schools used BRC’s reading and math.
Children who entered school in 2009 and will graduate in 2017:
This Ministry of Education put BRC’s learning how to read books back in Infant One in 2009. There was no change in math books. We should see some improvement in the PSE results for 2017.
Children who entered school in 2010 and will graduate in 2018:
BRC revised its Reading One workbooks to correspond more closely to the curriculum and followed the Ministry of Education’s request that the books be put in full color. The children also used BRC’s Reading Two in Infant Two. In 2018, I expect one of the largest improvements in PSE scores in many years. The children who entered school in 2010 were slightly hurt by a the Ministry of Education’s decision not to put BRC’s revised full color Reading Two workbooks in schools when the children got to Infant Two.
Children who entered school in 2011 and will graduate in 2019:
There should be a little improvement in the PSE results for 2019 as the children were given BRC’s improved, full color Reading Two books when they got to Infant Two in 2012.
It was in 2011 that QADS and its Literacy Unit began an all out attack on BRC’s method of teaching children how to read by sounding out words. Ministry officials went around the country encouraging teachers to teach children to read by memorizing lists of sight words and by guessing at the reading of words using the first or the last letters of a word. They also taught guessing at the reading of words by using the rest of the sentence or pictures.
The teachers who applied the methods that QADS and the Literacy Unit were encouraging destroyed the children’s application of reading words by sounding them out.
There may be only a little improvement in PSE results from 2019 to 2026. There might even be a decline. If we do not teach our non-privileged children how to read and do math, it will not matter how much money the Ministry of Education pours into education. We will not be able to improve the results of the PSE. We will still fail our non-privileged children.
Children who entered school in 2012 and will graduate in 2020:
The Ministry of Education continued to hurt our non-privileged children by increasing its pressure on teachers to ignore teaching children to sound out words.
A new, serious level of damage was done to many of our children. Many children did not receive a complete set of BRC’s three reading workbooks for Infant One and Infant Two. The children who did not get a complete set of books were seriously hurt. It might be that more than 30% of our Infant One and Infant Two children did not get a complete set of reading workbooks. BRC did give lot of free books to children who did not get them from the Ministry of Education.
It is possible that not giving the workbooks to children will result in lower PSE scores in 2020. How could our Ministry of Education come to the belief that it would not hurt children if they did not have learning to read books?
Children who entered school in 2013 and will graduate in 2021:
BRC offered to give the Ministry of Education $100,000.00 worth of workbooks so that every child in Infant One and Infant Two could get a complete set of BRC’s three workbooks. Can you believe this? The Ministry of Education rejected BRC’s offer! They continued to teach teachers to use their method of teaching children how to read. More teachers became confused and the reading level was lowered.
Once again the Ministry of Education did such a poor job of distribution that close to 30% of our non-privileged children’s learning was hurt. How could Ministry officials be so unconcerned?
That is not the worst thing that the Ministry of Education did to our non-privileged children’s learning how to read. When the children who entered school in 2013 began Infant Two in 2014, the Ministry of Education gave only a few children a complete set of learning how to read books. Even worse, they strongly criticized managements and schools that put learning how to read books on their book list. Incredible! Unbelievable! Inexcusable!
Because most of our children in Infant One and Infant Two did not have learning how to read books this past school year, our Infant One and Infant Two non-privileged children may have a difficult time reading and learning for the rest of their life. If Belize had still been a colony, we would have screamed for our independence from a nation that would do such a thing to our children. The PSE in 2021 and 2022 may reflect this Ministry’s horrible decision. Is the Ministry of Education going to do anything to correct the damage that it did to our children’s learning how to read this past school year?
Children who entered school in 2014 and will graduate in 2022:
I cannot believe that any government would do what this government did to our Infant One and Infant Two children for this past school year 2014-2015. I am scared for our non-privileged children for this coming school year 2015-2016. This government has yet to give a contract for providing learning how to read books for this coming school year. It is almost too late to get the books to the schools for this coming September.
For 2015-2016, the Ministry of Education is forcing BRC to take methods out of its learning how to read books that 95% of the teachers believe are helping all children learn how to read. For the school year 2016-2017 they may force BRC to remove much of the content and methods that help the non-privileged children learn to read. The non-privileged children will really be hurt.
If the Ministry of Education continues to go around the country teaching teachers to use word memorization and guessing as the way to learn how to read, instead of teaching teachers to use the sounding out methods of systematic synthetic phonics (BRC’s method), all but the most privileged children will be hurt. For many years to come we will lament the poor results on the PSE.
A nationwide test has tremendous control over what is taught in the classroom. The Language Arts test that QADS/Literacy Unit is piloting this year in Infant One will really hurt our children’s learning how to read. I hope that someone will recommend a test that will test the reading that our children should have learned in Infant One. I would also hope that the test would test what the children were taught in Infant One.
Doesn’t anyone in the Ministry of Education have the courage to speak up for our non-privileged children?
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.
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