Presently, the International Student Teaching Program has collaborative programs with universities and local education agencies in Belize. ISTP has maintained teaching sites in this country since 1986. Belize has been chosen as host for the ISTP because:
- the College has a history of collaboration and cooperative working relationships with Belize,
- this location reflects the University’s long-term interest and commitment to Latin America, and
- this location can accommodate both English speaking students and Spanish/English bilingual students.
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 San Ignacio Sacred Heart School. Students will most likely be placed in Belize City or San Ignacio. 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.