Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Reimagining Education through Social Emotional Learning in the Early Grades

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The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST), Think Equal Inc. and UNICEF Belize launched the national Think Equal Programme in Belize on Wednesday, August 9th. The ceremony was held in the Toucan Hall at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City. Under the theme: ‘Reimagining Education through Social Emotional Learning in the Early Grades’, the joint effort officially introduced the innovative programme to teach social and emotional learning in the early grades.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March, the MoECST and Think Equal formalised the partnership to provide all children in Infant I and Infant II access to learn social and emotional skills with the use of Think Equal curriculum. This partnership is a result of Belize’s national commitments made at last year’s Transforming Education Summit (TES) focused on fast-tracking actions to recover learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to lead curriculum reform that includes a shift to competency-based learning and a framework to mainstream psychosocial support for children. The Think Equal’s curriculum is play-based and uses quality short stories for peace building, promotes emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and positive behaviours for building relationships. This partnership complements national education goals and is an investment in future generations teaching social justice and wellbeing for increased productivity. Over a period of 30 months, 700 classrooms across the six districts will benefit from this programme reaching all Infant I and Infant II students nationwide.

Leslee Udwin, Founder and President of Think Equal is in the country to visit with teachers. She shared her reflections at the launch. “From its leadership to its practitioners, Belize has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the vision of this programme. All the Infant I and Infant II teachers I’ve met are leading by examples and are dedicated, visionary and enlightened. This is the revolution in education that we have talked about for centuries and done nothing about until now. The commitment of Belize to this mission is the most admirable and optimistic outlook for the future that I can imagine.”

In his remarks, Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, commented “Think Equal is a comprehensive, holistic programme designed to equip our early childhood children with the foundation to lead positive lives. The focus on social and emotional learning is a natural complement to the National Curriculum Framework that we have launched, with its targeted efforts to teach values and psychosocial skills and competencies that will engender empathy, self-esteem and respect for the dignity, value and equality of others.” He elaborated, “During these formative years, we have a real opportunity to shape and guide the values that our children will carry with them throughout their lives. We can instil in our students the right attitudes for life, respect and discipline, respect for others, humility, and appreciation of who they are. This is critically important work that we, together, have to remain strongly and deeply committed to”.

Alison Parker, UNICEF Representative for Belize also shared her reflections on the significance of the partnership to national development. “Human capital is fundamental to national development. The greatest investment we make and the best legacy we can leave for the next generation is effectively nurturing our youngest with the right tools to build emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, and resiliency. Today’s accomplishment gives all children in Belize access to this menu of skills to be nurtured to their fullest potential. This is the mandate of UNICEF Belize and we are elated to partner with the Government of Belize and Think Equal to advance our efforts towards that vision.”

In preparation for the roll-out of the programme teachers are currently attending training workshops in every district to learn how to teach social and emotional skills using the materials provided.

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