Presently, the International Student Teaching Program has collaborative programs with universities and local education agencies in Belize and Mexico. ISTP has maintained teaching sites in these two countries since 1986. These countries have been chosen as hosts for the ISTP because:
- the College has a history of collaboration and cooperative working relationships with both countries,
- these locations reflect the University’s long-term interest and commitment to Latin America, and
- these locations can accommodate both English speaking students and Spanish/English bilingual students.
ISTP participants may be placed at every level including primary, secondary, and special education. Current placements sites for Mexico are in Saltillo and Culiacan. Public education in Mexico is directed by the national government which determines the direction, curriculum, and instructional philosophy of the public school system. Mexico also has a well-developed private school system. Most school offer Spanish and English bilingual study. Spanish is the first language of Mexico, but in many locations indigenous dialects are also spoken. ISTP candidates for Mexico need Spanish proficiency and will be assessed prior to acceptance. While teaching in Mexico, ISTP participants will stay with either host families, in dormitories, or in group-living apartments.
Saltillo and Culican are excellent locations from which to explore Mexico’s central-upper region. Culiacan is located on the Pacific Coast while Saltillo is in the mountainous interior. Both places offer wonderful opportunities for outdoor adventure and rich Mexican culture.
The ISTP has an agreement with the University College of Belize to place students at its schools. Belize’s educational system can be described as a church-state system, with schools jointly funded by both the church and the government. Historically, the school system in Belize is modeled after the British system. Education is compulsory for Belizean children between the ages of 6 and 14. The age levels are 6-14 years for primary, 14-17 for secondary, and 17+ for post-secondary.
Belize’s educational system reflects its diversity and British colonial legacy. At the end of primary school students must pass the National Selection Examination to gain access to secondary school. Secondary school students take the externally administered Caribbean Examinations Council exam in order to be admitted into a post-secondary institution. Only half of the 80% of children enrolled in primary school complete the full eight compulsory school years. A small percentage of those graduating from secondary go on to higher education.
NMSU ISTP students can request placement in primary (grades 1-8) and secondary schools, or, if qualified, may teach at the University College of Belize-Belmopan Junior College. Students will most likely be placed in Belize City or Belmopan, the capital of Belize. Teachers are needed in all subject areas, and special education teachers can be accommodated. Student teachers will live with families as arranged by the Belize ISTP coordinator. This is a tuition-only exchange with NMSU students paying for arranged housing in Belize.
Belize is a developing country with a rich variety of ethnic groups reflecting its Mayan, African, Spanish, and English heritage. English is the official language and the language of instruction in schools, but almost everyone speaks a English dialect, or Creole patios, the vernacular of the country. Spanish is also widely spoken. It is taught in public schools in order to promote bilingualism.
When not teaching, Belize is an outstanding location for traveling and adventure. Belize has one of the world’s richest habitats for flora and fauna and has the second largest barrier reef system in the world. An important part of Belize’s history is the Mayan legacy of palaces and temples.
Belize’s climate is sub-tropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The average annual temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season is between June and August.