by Arwa Abuhaimed and Ramzan Amiri
Belize, as an emerging country, faces some economics and education limitations for its general growth. Government education system offers elementary and middle education free upto eighth grade. The country has significant beauty because of it’s warm beaches connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Tourism industry, their largest economic sector, is growing due to favorable changes in foreign investment policies. Belize’s government appears to be moving in the direction to grow the country’s economy, but it will take some time to see positive outcomes as skilled labor and infrastructure continues to be some of the key deficiencies. The country will require political reform with a priority towards helping people improve their quality of life. With this in mind, the first challenge is to understand the economic problems and its impact on the educational system. Young and adult citizens need support to acquire the highest skills to improve their earnings. Unfortunately, young students, whose families do not have sufficient funds to pay for their high school education have to survive getting menial low skill jobs with minimal income. They have low income and living under poverty limits, (Index mundi, 2018). Poverty has become a significant barrier to economic growth in Belize. With this is in mind, this particular project lays out a plan to help Belize’s young and adult people to learn and develop new technologies skills to compete for better jobs and salaries. Young people deserve better opportunities to get out of poverty by improving their skills and be successful and happy people. We have designed a proposal for a Distance Online Learning Program to teach them computer skills as well as skills in the areas of website development, marketing using social media, programming, etc. where home-based business can be established with minimal costs with global reach.
ONLINE LEARNING ACADEMY
The country of Belize and its people are currently facing some important issues. It is not entirely accurate that Belize has an economic crisis on its hands. It is true, however, that the country is facing a crisis of illiteracy and lack of education that could lead to future economic problems, including issues with poverty, and issues with living up to an acceptable standard of human rights. With this in mind, a trip to Belize revealed a number of things about the country that must be understood by those who seek to help. Its chief economic indicators are not strong. In fact, the country features roughly 10% unemployment across the board, (Miller et al., 2015). The percentage does not even include those people who are entirely out of the workforce because of issues of disability or just no longer looking for work. Like in many countries, people’s percentage is not working in Belize is extraordinarily high. On top of that, the country experiences relatively low GDP growth. With just more than two percent, the country’s growth rates should be much higher considering the country has a developing economy. It mainly has the growth rates of an established, developed economy without enjoying the benefits of high quality of life that people have in America or many of the European countries. As one might expect, the long-term economic indicators for the country are just precursors for problems on the ground. In particular, current issues are facing the country in terms of poverty and low quality of life. People are living poorly, with wages being stagnant. Many are living beneath levels of poverty, and they are unable to attend an elementary education; this has created a vicious cycle where individuals are unable to get the assistance they need and then remain in poverty because they do not have the skills to pull themselves out. With this in mind, various solutions are needed to work through this problem today.
The answer is simple, and there are two aspects of this project. First one, it is critical that the quality of life of the people of Belize be raised to acceptable levels. The world has come around to the idea that economic justice is just a human justice. When people are denied their economic rights, they are being denied their human rights more than that. The current situation in Belize constitutes a human rights crisis because the people are living in destitution and have little hope of climbing out of it, either. It is broader than that, however. Helping people in nations like Belize gain skills related to technology allows them to then participate in the emerging global economy. Technology can make the world itself more productive, provide more options for consumers, and generally help improve growth rates. Having more global economic equality, and raising developing nations out of their destitute status, can benefit all people. It is in addition to it just being the right thing to do for human rights reasons.
After considering the problem and why it is essential, the next question has to do with the solution. How can the problem be solved given the tools we have on hand today? In looking at Belize, one could see that the heart of the problem was the lack of ability to provide citizens with training and education (Weigand & Gibson, 2015). They are not given education by the government after the age of 14, meaning that most children never go on to even high school, let alone college. The bulk of applicable skills to help people get jobs are learned in high school and beyond. It makes sense, then that many people would struggle to obtain and hold good jobs if they have a lack of even the most basic skills needed for this a better job, (Ferreira, 2015). With this in mind, the fix itself needs to be narrowly tailored toward the root of the actual problem so that it has the best possibility of addressing the issue.
Moreover, the solutions considered have to be cost-effective, and they have to take into account the limitations that currently exist in Belize, (Horowitz, 2017). The desired fix is one that implements some of the good technology in the world of education that has been developed thus far. Critically, this means using distance learning and online education to provide youth with training so that they can be prepared either to work in global jobs or to start their businesses. Belize will at some point come into the modern age when it comes to business, and people need to be well-positioned to fill the jobs of the future when that takes place. This will allow more of the growth and prosperity to fall into the hands of the people there rather than having others from outside of Belize to come in and take all of the prosperity.
The vision for this project is to provide online learning solutions for all people so that they can be prepared for jobs in technology. The mission is similar. It is to bring about equality and opportunity through the teaching of computer skills and other relevant skills that youths are missing out on. The project has several core values that are important. It operates on the belief that all people are capable of learning new skills. It also operates on the belief that all people are worthy of investment in their skills and their futures.
The idea is to provide a framework through which youth can receive training through the Internet by skilled teachers who can help them develop their technology and computer skills. The goal would be to build an online system that could eventually provide educational services to all interested people in Belize. In the beginning, though, it would seek to provide this education to 10,000 citizens. From there, if it is successful, more students can take advantage of the opportunity.
The plan is to partner with a local organization and with the government in Belize. By doing so, this will ensure that the resources on the ground are used to make this the most efficient project possible. Those partners will be used to identify which technologies are currently available, what kinds of limitations the country might have in terms of identifying students for these programs, and any other local knowledge that might be necessary for the facilitation of this sort of program.
We need to start developing a budget with $20,0000 (see figure 1)
- Year one- model classroom in Belmopan
- Year two- two classrooms in Belize City
- Year three- one additional classroom in Belmopan and one in Placencia
- Year four- maintain and improve the success rate of students
- Year five- maintain and improve the success rate of students
Figure 1. Timeline and cost for five years
- Partner with a local organization “Pathlight International”.
- Identify resource requirement to set-up and maintain the network.
- WIFI availability with proper speed to support the lab – need to determine the size.
- Space availability.
- Initial funding for the equipment, set-up, and furniture.
- Recurring cost and maintenance.
- Will need technology sponsor for continuous (affiliation with technology companies).
- Timeline + Cost
WHO WE MET
- David Kafka: Remax relator moved to Placencia about nine years ago he is involved with real estate development and works with many investors from the USA and Europe. He shared Some insight about the future development plans of Placencia. The growth plan is significant they except major investment coming from USA and Europe in the next 5 to 10 years.
- Edgar: is a well-connected person background in local politics, he shared information about the political-legal system, culture history and the dynamics of immigrants and the impact to the economy.
- RJ: Tour Guys share some information about people in Belize and their challenges.
- Adrian Bartley: Director, Community Partners PathLight International Organization. He is responsible for bringing sponsors on board and work with them. He is currently with US embassy as well as a local rotary club.
The SPELIT analysis methodology is a leadership tool for untangling the organizational environment, which is a framework for students and leaders to assess a problem from a social, political, economic, legal, intercultural and technical view (Schmieder-Ramirez & Mallette, 2007).
The social environment addresses the social character of an organization- areas of awareness, relationships, and service.
- Migration continues to transform Belize’s population.
- About 16% of Belizeans live aboard, while immigrants constitute about 15%.
- The emigration of a large share and the influx of Central American immigrants, many central Americans immigrants.
- Mestizos are the most ethnic group, but they can speak Spanish than English
- Some native people speaks Creole, despite English being the official language.
- All cultures appear to live in harmony.
The political environment involves the politics of decision making, power and influence, organizational structure, and sources of power.
- Complaints of lengthy bureaucratic delays and corruption serve as disincentives to foreign investments.
- Belize lacks political risk insurance, and as a practice rarely engages in title insurance on real estate property transactions.
The economic environment involves the production and consumption of resources for the next reasons:
- Belize’s economic freedom score ranks 23rd among the 32 countries in Latin America,
- Economic reform in Belize has been not healthy at all because the economy is constrained by lingering policy and institutional weaknesses in many parts of the economy.
- The exterior commerce has some barriers that difficult the diversification.
- Tourism is the number one asset to bring money from other countries, followed by export of sugar, bananas, citrus, marine products, and crude oil.
The legal environment involves the laws (civil, custom, religious), rules, customs, and ethics.
- Governance is weak with high levels of corruption.
- Unreliable land title certificates have led to numerous property disputes involving foreign investors and landowners
The intercultural environment addresses culture and the differences between culture.
- Most Belizeans are of multiracial descent. About 52.9% are Mestizo, 25.9% Creole, 11.3% Maya, 6.1. % Garifuna, 3.9% East Indian, 3.6% Mennonites, 1.2% White, 1% Asian, 1.2% Other and 0.3% Unknown.
- In the case of Europeans, most are descendants of Spanish and British colonial settlers, whether pure-blooded or mixed with each other.
- Most Spanish left the nation just after it was taken by the British colonists who, in the same way, left after independence. Beginning in 1958.
- German and Russian Mennonites settled in Belize, mostly in isolated areas.
- The technology environment involves the tools available in the physical environment. (e. facilities and distribution channels).
- Wi-Fi is a challenge in most parts of Belize. The speed is very slow, and connectivity is unreliable.
- The government had a decision in 2016 to install fiber optics connection throughout the country. It is a three-year project and appears to be going well. The installation has taken place in a couple of the larger cities including the Capital, Belmopan.
SOCIAL & ECONOMIC BENEFIT
There are social and economic benefits to this plan. Socially speaking, it would help to improve the levels of hopefulness in the community. It would also provide a means through which people could come together since they will be learning a significant number of skills together. It would likely decrease crime because young people would both have something to do with their time and would have more hope and opportunity for the future. Economically, this would help to reduce the unemployment rate in the country. It would also add opportunities for people to gain higher wage jobs in the future. The goal is not just to ensure that the people of Belize have an opportunity for employment, but to find good ways to ensure that the people have access to good-paying jobs that can lift them out of poverty. This could, on a macro level, improve the overall standing of the economy of Belize.
Figure 2. Countries align closely along the regression line that depicts the positive association between cognitive skills and economic growth (Hanushek & Woessmann, 2015).
Figure 2. The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth
The benefits of the education have to be framed in a manner that the parents and the potential students see the long-term advantage of how this education can truly change their lives and their future generation. Marketing at the grassroots level will be critical. It will have to be addressed in a town hall type meeting in schools at the middle school level.
The risk of not taken action will be shared by presenting options of where they are today and the potential of where they can be if their skills are improved (Guides, 2014). Examples will be used of countries that have embarked on technology skills development and the global opportunity they have been to gain.
ENDOGENOUS GROWTH THEORY:
“A rising tide lifts all boats.” Since economic growth means there is more to go around everyone in the economy can benefit from it.
Investment in human capital, specifically in technology skills, makes workers use physical capital more effectively, which raises the return on investment in physical capital (Guides, 2014). It is a complementary process which raises GDP growth. Thus, allowing the government to use the additional tax towards improving the country’s economy.
WHAT WE LEARNED
There were many lessons when I was going through this project. The most eye-opening lesson I learned was that people in countries like Belize have the desire to go out and achieve and learn new skills, but they are frustrated, and they are not being helped by the government infrastructure around them. Things as simple as a free high school education are often taken for granted until one goes to a place like Belize and realizes that life there is very different. I learned, as well, that the best way to put together a program to help people in a country like this is not just to go in and impose one’s ways on the country. Instead, for it to work, it needs to be a collaborative effort. Organizations need to partner with other organizations and need to look closely at the existing competencies there. Without this kind of local engagement, it will be all but impossible to put in place a program that works over the long run.
According to the Harvard Business Review, authentic leaders have a high level of global Mindset, and they are more likely to succeed in working with people from different cultures, (Javidan, 2010).
- Know about cultures, political and economic systems in other countries and understand how their global industry works.
- Being passionate about diversity and willing to push ourselves.
- To be comfortable with being uncomfortable in the uncomfortable environment.
- Able to build trusting relationships with people who are different from us by showing respect and empathy and by being good listeners.
- Recognize our Cultural values and Biases.
- Get to know our Personality traits, especially curiosity.
- Learn about the workplace and business expectations of the country and market.
- Build strong Intercultural Relationships.
- Develop Strategies to adjust and flex style.
Ultimately, the best recommendation in this instance is to go forward with a program that utilizes pilot courses to get a few students involved in the beginning. It would test out the feasibility of the program and ensure that any kinks can be worked out in the beginning. It is critical to design courses that take into account the skills that people currently have as well as any limitations they might possess. By partnering with local organizations rather than just attempting to come alone in and do everything from the outside, the project can both be better accepted and more likely to succeed in meeting its long-term goals within the community there. It will give the learners, teachers, and facilitators the best chance to help Belize’s people to go to the next level.
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