Accreditation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Belize
In Belize, an independent organization responsible for evaluating, accrediting and assessing the quality of education at the nation’s institutions of higher education does not currently exist. In order for new universities to be established, or for existing universities to implement new academic programs, institutions are required to receive approval from the Ministry of Education’s Chief Education Officer. Approval is contingent on having adequate human, financial, and infrastructural resources in place.
According to the Belize National Report on Higher Education 2005 compiled by officials from the University of Belize and Galen University, and published by UNESCO, all institutions of higher education complete an internal assessment process following every semester, academic year or every five years as part of internal policy. However, only 47 percent of Belizean institutions of higher education surveyed in 2005 for the above report had submitted to an external evaluation process, numbers that suggest the need for a centralized quality assurance organization.
In October 2004, the Belizean government announced plans to introduce legislation that would create the National Accreditation Council (NAC) of Belize, an organization that would be charged with evaluating institutions at all levels of education to ensure that they are operating in line with regional and international standards. Part of the rationale for establishing the accreditation council is to boost the country’s economy by helping promote Belizean participation in the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), a regional free trade agreement.
As it currently stands, the legislation that would establish the NAC under the auspices of the Belize Ministry of Education has been submitted to the Cabinet for ratification and is under process of review. In response to the expected formation of the NAC, at least two institutions of higher education, Galen University and Sacred Heart Junior College, have taken steps to create internal offices of quality assurance. Under the original Ministry of Education timeline, as outlined in its Action Plan 2005 – 2010, the NCA should have begun operations in April 2006.
Medical programs in Belize are accredited by the Belize Medical School Accreditation Committee, a body that operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Additionally, the teacher education programs at the University of Belize and St. John’s College Junior College are accredited by the Joint Board of Teacher Education at the University of West Indies.
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