1. Definitions

2. School Organization

3. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

4. Governance

5. Learning Environments

6. Teachers and Support Personnel

7. Monitoring and Reporting


  1. Definitions

Inclusive education

There is no explicit definition of inclusive education in the national laws and policies of Belize. According to the National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NaRCIE), inclusive education is based on the affirmation of the right to equal education for every person to learn within his or her own community.

Special education needs and ‘exceptional learning needs’

The Education Rules (2012 Amendment) uses the term ‘exceptional populations’ to refer to children who are educationally underserved, are socio-economically disadvantaged or have special needs.

NaRCIE refers to children with exceptional learning needs (ELNs), which are identified within 13 service categories: attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autistic spectrum, deaf/hard of hearing, emotional/behavioural disorder, gifted or talented, health disorder, intellectual impairment, learning disability, pervasive developmental disorders, physical disability, foundation deficit (slow learner), speech/language disorder and visually impaired.

According to UNICEF, a uniform definition or classification of children with special needs has yet to be identified in Belize. The absence of a definition creates difficulties in studying the scope of disability of children in Belize and is why such varied prevalence figures, ranging from 2% to 26%, are reported depending on which study is examined.


  1. School Organization

The delivery of education in Belize is dominated by a church and state system, which causes variance in the quality of education in the country.

Government departments and non-government organizations are working together to provide an enabling environment for children with disabilities. Schools throughout the country are working towards the establishment of special education classes or centres. Such is the case for the Cayo District Education Centre, which advocates for the provision of inclusive education services to students with special education needs. There is evidence of successful cases of inclusion of children with ELNs in regular classes.

Children with disabilities at primary and secondary level are encouraged to attend regular schools by the Ministry of Education through NaRCIE. NaRCIE refers students with ELNs to itinerant resource officers (IROs), who are trained in various aspects of special education. There are 11 IROs across the country who assess children with ELNs. However, given limited staff and resources in some districts, only 30% of the children with ELNs are being assessed.

Once the student is assessed, he or she becomes a client and the IRO assists the teacher to make modifications to teaching plans and programmes to make them relevant to the diverse learning needs of students. NaRCIE acknowledges that there are children who need special education programmes to meet their individualized needs. Children who attend these programmes are not able to respond to the demands of the academic curriculum and have better chances to succeed in special education classes, schools or centres.

According to UNICEF, Stella Maris is one of the two special schools for children with disabilities in the country. Established 60 years ago, the school provides the opportunity for students with learning disabilities, intellectual challenges, deafness, autism, and physical impairment and visual impairments to learn academic and social skills necessary for attaining the highest level possible of economic, personal and social fulfilment. Only children who are recommended by NaRCIE after an assessment are accepted in this school.


  1. Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

A non-discrimination clause in the Belize Constitution (S.6-1) states that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.

The 2020 Education Act declares that no citizen or permanent resident of Belize shall be refused admission to any school on account of religion, race, ethnicity, language or political affiliation. Schools shall be free of gender, racial and other biases and shall be managed in such a way that all students shall, as far as may be applicable, co-exist as peacefully and harmoniously as possible.

The 2010 Education and Training Act determined that the Ministry of Education shall ensure equitable access for both sexes to education at all levels and that provision of education is sensitive to the particular needs of both males and females and caters for the special needs of challenged pupils.

The UNESCO International Bureau of Education’s 2007 report on inclusive education in Belize concluded that while significant work has been done in identifying and reducing the factors that contribute to children being excluded from acquiring basic education, inclusion or inclusive education is often used restrictively to refer to provisions for children with special needs due to some physical disability.

The 2004–15 National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents in Belize, elaborated by the government with the support of UNICEF, aimed to increase the accessibility and affordability of preschool, primary and post-primary education in Belize. This included ensuring that all children with disabilities have access to relevant education, with at least 60% enrolled within the regular school system. The plan also envisaged the implementation of early detection measures.

The 2011–16 education sector strategy acknowledged that opportunities to access education are not uniform across Belize: ‘where you live and to some extent your gender, ethnicity and, more strongly, your economic status will strongly influence those opportunities, particularly at pre-primary and post primary levels.’ Therefore, the strategy aimed at increasing equitable access to all levels of education.


Children with disabilities in Belize are constantly excluded from participating in education and employment opportunities. According to the National Youth Development Policy of Belize, there is no specific legislation that addresses the status of disabled young people and their rights to health, education, development, training, rehabilitation, recreation and care.

The 2011–16 education sector strategy aimed to improve enrolment of children with special education needs and ensure that at least half of them are placed in schools. It proposed to increase support to schools that accommodate children with special education needs, to provide training to teachers, education officials and school managers and to improve education services.

Belize’s Early Childhood Policy includes provisions for children with disabilities (UNICEF, Box 7). The policy sought to facilitate the participation of children with special needs in physical education and intellectual and psychological development activities and to ensure that all new childcare facilities are accessible to children with physical disabilities. Furthermore, it advocated for the ‘enactment of legislation to eliminate discrimination against children with special needs, in particular orphans and vulnerable children, in the service delivery system, including in the education, health and child protection systems.’ Regarding the placement of children with disabilities, the policy promotes the mainstreaming or integration of children with special needs into national strategies, policies and programmes.

At other education levels, the Ministry of Education has pledged for schools to integrate children with disabilities into regular classrooms wherever possible. The ministry holds a key role in creating education opportunities for children with disabilities.

NaRCIE advocates for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the education system. Systems are in place for all children with disabilities (e.g. physical disabilities [cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, arthritis], visual impairment, hearing impairment, specific learning disabilities, medical or personal problems, and temporary disabilities) to sit national and international examinations including the Primary School Examination and those of the Caribbean Examinations Council. For this purpose, the Ministry of Education developed the Guidelines for the Provision of Special Arrangements in National Examinations for Candidates with Special Education Needs.


The Education Act establishes that no person shall be refused admission to any school on account of gender, except where such schools are historically non-coeducational. Furthermore, the act sets out that the education system shall ensure equitable access for both genders to education at all levels, shall be sensitive to the particular needs of the female gender and shall cater for the special needs of challenged pupils.

According to the 2011–16 education sector strategy, gender parity across basic education shows a reasonable balance. At secondary level, girls start to outnumber boys (53:47), and this phenomenon widens at tertiary level (62:38). The gradual departure of boys from formal education poses a major challenge in Belize, as it does in many countries of the region, leading to unemployment and rising crime rates.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, in its 2007 concluding comments, expressed concern about the persistence of social barriers that impede women’s education and are reflected in the early dropout rate of girls from school as well as the lack of measures to ensure that teenage mothers stay in or return to school. The committee also expressed concern about the influence of the church on girls’ and young women’s right to education.

Ethnic and linguistic groups and indigenous people

The Education Act establishes that no citizen or permanent resident of Belize shall be refused admission to any school on account of religion, race, ethnicity, language or political affiliation.

According to UNICEF, Belize’s indigenous population – particularly its children and adolescents – face many challenges in their development as well as in realizing their basic rights to education, health and protection.

Some schools, such as the Aguacate Primary School, have tried to develop an approach of intercultural bilingual education by conducting lessons in the indigenous Q’eqchi’ language and English.  

While Belize has a diverse society, composed of many ethnic groups and languages, there is no consistent set of laws or policies to address this diversity in the classroom.

People living in rural and remote areas

The 2011–16 education sector strategy recognized that there are significant disparities in enrolment across the six districts of Belize, and in particular between urban and rural areas. In addition to raising overall enrolment, the strategy aimed to reduce the inequalities among districts.

Access to primary schooling (as well as secondary) has been enhanced by the government’s policy of providing free transport to offset private costs associated with distance, particularly in Belize’s rural areas.


As reported by UNICEF, repetition, low transition to secondary schools and dropouts are serious issues for youth from low-socio-economic-status backgrounds, dysfunctional families and single parent households.

While education under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education is touted as free in public schools, children are required to pay supplementary fees which are unaffordable to the most disadvantaged.

  1. Governance

The 2020 Education Act determined the general functions of the main education actors in Belize, such as the Ministry of Education, the National Council for Education and the district education councils, which are established to assist the Ministry of Education in planning, managing and monitoring the delivery of education services in each district in Belize.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology works in partnership, consultation and cooperation with churches, communities, voluntary organizations, private organizations and other education partners for the sufficient and efficient provision of education in Belize.

The National Council for Education embodies the partnership between the state and its partners in education, such as churches, communities and voluntary organizations. The council is composed of not more than 15 members appointed by the minister, including the chief education officer, a representative of denominational management of primary and secondary schools, a representative of a recognized teachers’ union, a representative of parent associations, business and community and no more than 5 professionals from the different levels and sectors of the education system. 


NaRCIE, attached to the Ministry of Education, works with children who have any form of disability. The centre launched in January 1991 as the Special Education Unit and was refocused and renamed NaRCIE in 2007. It contributes to the attainment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, rights under other international conventions and declarations, and national laws, policies and plans. All this is done through an inclusive education approach, which is operationalized using UNESCO’s definition of inclusive education.

The Belize Assembly of Persons with Disabilities advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities in the country.

The Committee for School Services considers and advises on matters relating to availability and access to early childhood education, special education, primary education, secondary education, and technical and vocational education and regarding matters relating to the establishment and management of such schools and institutions deemed necessary for the delivery of the required programmes.

The Teaching Services Commission and the recently constituted Belize Board of Teacher Education (BBTE) are beginning to play a more effective role in Belize’s effort to improve its education system.

  1. Learning Environments

Infrastructure and services

A situational analysis of children with disabilities prepared by UNICEF acknowledges that many schools are doing as much as they can to serve children with disabilities, but major limitations persist, such as access to buildings, the absence of bathroom and other facilities to accommodate children with disabilities, the lack of trained teachers and transportation. Gradually, more preschools are being built with ramp access, as is the case at San Roman, Stann Creek District; Chan Pine Ridge, Orange Walk District; and Chan Chen, Corozal District.

The 2009–13 National Poverty Elimination Strategy and Action Plan aimed to invest in better housing and education facilities, improving communication and transportation linkages between poor communities and larger population centres, and enabling rural communities to access potable water and sanitation.

Belize has a comprehensive school transportation policy that benefits disadvantaged children.


The Ministry of Education has developed a health and family life curriculum with a sexual education component. However, the church–state system of education means that it is difficult to achieve a consistent approach in the implementation of the curriculum since implementation is in the hands of different school managements.

Less than 1 in every 25 Belizeans has English as their mother tongue, yet English is the official language and the language of instruction throughout education. The 2011–16 education sector strategy aimed to understand the impact of Belize’s diverse language background on education processes and achievements and to improve relevance and delivery of the primary and secondary curriculum.

Learning materials and ICT

According to the 2011–16 education sector strategy, there is little evidence of ICT being used effectively and productively across the education system. Currently, very few primary schools and not all secondary schools have internet connectivity and the availability of ICT facilities in schools is neither systematic nor standardized, frequently resulting from the donation of dated equipment. While there is a general acknowledgement in Belize of the potential benefits of ICT in education, policy remains unclear and understandably ambivalent given the likely scale of both initial investment and ongoing costs.


  1. Teachers and Support Personnel

The Belize National Sustainable Development Report states that the teaching force is largely untrained and there is much room for improvement in its management as the church–state system of management and delivery of education fails to reach its full potential. The 2011–16 education sector strategy attempted to address this situation by expanding access to pre-service and in-service professional development for teachers. To achieve this, the capacity of existing colleges of education will be expanded to accommodate the increased number of trainings.

The BBTE has a pivotal role in setting and maintaining standards of teacher training. Belize is preparing a teacher education programme with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, which aims to continue to raise the quality of Belize’s training profession.

According to NaRCIE, in-service training for teachers is provided on a continuous basis. Training is also provided to parents so that they can complement the work of the school. However, some teachers do not make special provisions to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Teachers, principals and NaRCIE’s staff attribute this neglect to large class size, the need to cover the school curriculum and the perception that it is more work to deal with these students.  

The 2011–16 education sector strategy set out to enhance teachers’ skills in identifying children with special education needs. The inclusion of children with special needs will be given priority in the teacher education programmes.

According to the strategy document, ‘Nationally, only around 40% of primary teachers are trained with marginally more (45%) in urban areas than in rural areas (40%).’ Training for children in multigrade classrooms will also be enhanced. Multigrade schools pose significant challenges given the high number of untrained teachers. At the primary level, a quarter of all schools are multigrade. Whereas multigrade schools are frequently inevitable in small, remote rural communities, the way primary schools are established and managed by the various church denominations exacerbates problems and challenges.

Lastly, the 2004–15 National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents in Belize aimed to sensitize all teachers at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels on gender issues and their effects on children’s socialization and development.


  1. Monitoring and Reporting

There is no evidence of indicators to monitor inclusive education in the country.

Last modified:

Tue, 31/08/2021 - 13:41