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MOE: Males' high high-school dropout rate key contributing factor to crime

By Michelle Sutherland


Minister of State in the Ministry of Education Dr. Louis Zabaneh says that the ministry is aware of the correlation between low education and crime and is equally aware that a high dropout rate among males at the high school level might be one of the main contributing factors.


Source: Belize Crime Observatory.

As we reported last week, Belize Crime Observatory (BCO) data shows that 96% of the prison's current male population lacks higher education. The BCO data also informed that 84% of male inmates have less than a completed high school education, with 977 (out of 1163) male inmates having dropped out at third form or somewhere even earlier in the education system.


“Yes, from the data that you described, it is consistent with general research on this topic across the world,” answered Zabaneh. “In the case of Belize, we have a very high dropout rate at the high school level.


For example, if you look at the enrolment data at high school, we have had approximately 22,000 students in high school, and that adds up to about 55% of children between the ages of 13 to 17 who should have been in high school. So, if we were to have all the children that should be in high school we should have approximately 42,000.”


Zabaneh also pointed out that a closer look at the data also reveals that the majority of students at the high school and tertiary level are females, with approximately two-thirds being females and one-third being males. He shared that based on the data, it is safe to say that by the time young people reach the high school level, in many cases, there is a higher dropout rate among male students than females.


“If you then look at the research that shows a number of factors including poverty, lack of employment opportunities for persons, and if you haven’t finished high school or tertiary then you are more than likely on the unemployment line and when you are there crime is a thing that will become more likely.” explained Zabaneh.


So, what is contributing to male dropout in schools, the minister says that there are multiple factors, including poverty, as well as the fact that the environment in schools was not conducive to the learning, growth, and development of children, especially young boys.


Zabaneh also indicated that an overloaded curriculum in school was also another contributing factor toward dropout, which he says created a stressful environment for teachers and students.


“So, if you are already coming from an environment where there are high levels of poverty, where there is a high crime rate, where your family is stressed out, and you go to a school which adds more stress to your situation then more than likely you will not find it within you to want to attend school,” he said.


According to Zabaneh, to address the problem, the ministry is not only overhauling the curriculum but is also expanding free education into poverty-stricken neighborhoods such as in the southside as well as in the south of the country. Through the revised curriculum, the ministry is also introducing hands-on learning among students, specifically targeting boys.


“I think that now we have done that, we have identified the overload; we have identified the fact that we need to move towards competency-based education; we have identified the need to train teachers in these areas; we have identified the need to provide more resources to children so that they can attend high school.


So we strongly believe that we are on the right track, and the end result would be a young population that is able to take care of itself, be independent, be creative, and be able to build the country. I think that these are the responsibilities that we have, and I am pleased to say that we are making progress, it may not be as fast as we would like it to be, but we are moving in the right direction,” ended Zabaneh.

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