The terms technologies, digital technologies, and information communication technologies (ICT) are mainly used in government documents, including Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025), Belize Education Sector Plan 2021-2025, and the ICT National Strategy (2011-2016).
Constitution and laws: Belize’s Constitution of Belize nor the 2000 Belize Education Act, 2010 Education Training Act, or the 2012 Education (Amendment) Rules address the use of technology in the education sector. However, legislation on the use of technology has been enacted, such as the 1995 Computer Wagering Licensing Act (as amended in 2003) and the Telecommunication Act (amended in 2003).
Policies, plans and strategies: At a national level, the ICT National Strategy (2011-2016) vision focused on “accelerated development and improved quality of life for all Belizeans through universal access and widespread usage of Information and Communication Technology.” The ICT National Strategy (2011-2016) included as one of its major objectives ICT in Education, which proposed to “infuse all aspects of the education system with ICTs for improved delivery and learning and access to education by all. Among its expected outcomes are 1. increasing access for people especially in rural areas through both stationary and mobile telecenters so that teachers in each village can increase their educational qualifications online and women can have readily information to health and nutrition and young people can access a high school education online; and 2. Enhancing education by creating attractive multimedia-based curricula and pedagogy and developing distance education modalities. The new National Digital Agenda, Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) proposes a set of programs under three pillars and a strategic theme that includes internet connectivity, learning outcomes, and learning platforms to support the use of ICT in the education sector. Moreover, the Belize Education Sector Plan 2021-2025, identifies technology as central to the Education Sector plan and supports the use of science and technology to transform teaching, learning and decision-making processes.
Digital competency frameworks: Belize, as part of the CARICOM community, adopts the Caricom Standards for Teaching Profession. The CARICOM Standards for the Teaching Profession has three distinctive features; (i) the expectations for good teaching are aligned and mapped across the practices of classroom teachers, educational leaders and teacher educators, this as quality teaching is deliberately nurtured and developed through the life of the career; (ii) there is an emphasis on developing a culture of research in teaching and, (iii) effective teaching and quality teacher development is characterised as a holistic practice attending to knowledge, skills, attitudes and wellbeing.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) was developed at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, technology is central to the Education Sector Plan and the inclusion of ICT for the forthcoming years in key sectors such as education, health, agriculture and tourism.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: No information was found on policies that specifically target access to electricity in schools. The Sustainable Energy Roadmap 2021-2040 mentions the need to prioritize universal access and productive uses of electricity.
Computers and devices: The first set of programs under the ICT and Technological Enablers pillar of Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) focuses on digital infrastructure to facilitate access and connectivity and deploy digital infrastructure across the country to minimize the technological access gap. One of Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) on digital inclusion intends to enable universal access to digital devices by giving digital devices (tablets) through the One Tablet Per Child (OLPC) approach, with a concentration on school-aged children in vulnerable areas.
Internet connectivity: The first set of programs under the ICT and Technological Enablers pillar of Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) focuses on facilitating access and connectivity. This first pillar focuses on connectivity and inclusive access - expansion of reliable internet connection and access points to remote and rural areas in Belize to support the use of digital services and mobile applications –digital infrastructure. Belize’s National Digital Agenda includes actions toward providing Internet access to rural schools, online education for all rural schools where applicable and aims to implement a universal internet access strategy. The Internet for Schools Program introduced in 1995 focused on providing free internet access to secondary and tertiary level schools. Over the past 22 years, the program evolved and now Digi, formally known as Belize Telemedia Limited, provides free High-Speed Internet to primary, secondary and tertiary level schools as well as select Non-Government Organizations/ Education Institutions across the country.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Belize Education Sector Plan 2021-2025 proposes to develop a National School Portal and learning platform with quality resources for teachers and students to facilitate remote learning and appropriate implementation of the national curriculum.
To provide continuity to education through distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government's response was to provide a blended approach with online classes for students who had access and printed packages for those who did not have access to the internet. Belize’s National Digital Agenda proposes a set of interventions to foster digitalization as a response to Covid. Interventions include Tele-education, distance education programs in national education systems, and the development of digital educational content according to new educational challenges.
The National Primary Curriculum does not include technology as a standalone subject; nevertheless, some technology uses are studied within the core subjects. Secondary Education is divided into two levels, lower secondary and upper secondary. A comprehensive national curriculum for secondary education has not been fully developed or implemented; however, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST), lower secondary curriculum core courses usually include courses in Mathematics and Integrated Science, as well as English Spanish, Social Studies, Information Technology and Religion. Upper secondary corresponds curriculum usually includes core courses and subjects organized into areas of professional specializations. Common concentrations are Business, Science and Arts. The Belize Education Sector Plan 2021-2025 specifies that curriculum, instruction and assessment must be aligned with each other; they must integrate technology to increase impact.
Regarding STEM, Belize’s National Digital Agenda mentions the need to include a STEAM program in schools and high schools to increase STEAM literacy through specific school-level interventions aiming at transforming learning environments (virtual and mixed) through the use of technology and data, promoting autonomous and data-driven creative learning, and developing digital media and informational competencies in students on all levels of education and to design a strategic vision for literacy development and closing the skills gap, especially focusing on encouraging women to participate in STEAM programs.
The Education (Amendment) Rules 2012 specify that all teachers must hold a license to teach, complying with the appropriate academic and professional requirements according to the level and teaching subject. Belize Teaching Services Commission (TSC) is responsible for the enforcement of standards for entry into the teaching profession. The Standards are now under review for alignment with the Caricom Standards for Teaching Profession. Belize Education Sector Plan 2021-2025 proposes to establish a Teacher Learning Institute to provide structured, comprehensive, year-round professional development programs based on identified needs of teachers and school leaders and to establish a STEAM Laboratory School to promote effective and innovative teaching in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Belize drafted the Data Protection Bill in 2021; however, no specific regulation was found regarding the data privacy of students or in educational contexts.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
Belize’s National Digital Agenda proposes the creation of a program to include education about practices and tools that can help protect them in the digital realm, such as parental control activities, safety navigation, and a national awareness campaign about cyberbullying and to create strategies for youth education in cybersecurity threats and tips to stay safe online: o Understanding risks online program o Cyber component to existing forums (e.g., ICT for girls). The National Cybersecurity Strategy 2020-2023 adopted in 2020 mentions the need to develop courses to promote society's awareness of threats and to implement measures to support education, awareness, and workforce development in cybersecurity.
The Cybercrime act of 2020 covers under the definition of person any ‘ natural or legal person, an educational or financial institution or any legal or other entity’. The Act refers explicitly to cybercrime towards children as child luring when it sets that ‘ a person commits an offense who uses a computer system to communicate with a child with the intent to a) induce the child to engage in a sexual conversation or sexual activity with the child, or b) encourage the child to produce child pornography; or (c) arrange a meeting with a child for the purpose of abusing or engaging in sexual activity with the child, or producing child pornography, whether or not the person takes any steps to effect the meeting. Moreover, the act covers explicitly as an offense the act carried out by a person that publishes or transmits computer data that is obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent with intent to– (i) humiliate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to another person; or (ii) cause the other person to be subject to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment; or (b) repeatedly send to another person, computer data that is obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent with intent to humiliate or harass the other person, and the humiliation or harassment is detrimental to the health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation of the other person. It also sets that a person commits an offense who uses a computer system to disseminate any information, statement or image, knowing the information, statement, or image to be false, with the intent to cause– (a) harm to the reputation of the other person; or (b) the other person to be subject to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment. (5) A person commits an offense who uses a computer system to threaten to publish computer data containing personal or private information of another person, with the intent to– (a) extort a benefit from the other person; or (b) cause the other person public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment. The person that commits such offense is liable to (a) summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars and to a term of imprisonment for five years; or (b) conviction on indictment to a fine of fifteen thousand dollars and to a term of imprisonment for ten years.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST) is charged with the responsibility of “ensuring that all Belizeans are given an opportunity to acquire those knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for their own personal development and for full and active participation in the development of the nation,” and includes as one of its Policy Objectives to “modernize the education system by building a robust education technology infrastructure and by harnessing the power of modern technology to transform teaching and learning in and out of the classroom.“ Within the MoECST, the Science and Education Technology Unit operates to manage the implementation of science and education technology initiatives within the MoECST. The primary mission of the Unit is to use the power of science and modern technology to transform the core functions and services of the education system and to strengthen engagement with stakeholders.
Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) leading institution is the Sector Ministry of Youth, Sports, and E-Governance; however, collaboration and coordination are needed within all relevant ministries and stakeholders. In the case of the education project, the projects of Belize’s National Digital Agenda (2022-2025) are developed in partnership mostly between the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST), the Ministry of Youth, Sports & E-Governance (Department of Youths), Academia, and Private Sector.
No national regulations governing the use of mobile devices in educational institutions were found. Educational institutions can regulate the use of mobile devices through their internal regulations.