The Belizean school system began and for the most part remains as
a loose aggregate of education subsystems. The basic system began and was based on British education, broken into
three levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Belizean children began their eight years of primary education
with two years of "infant" classes, followed by six "standards." Secondary education was divided into four "forms."
Sixth form was a two-year postsecondary course, originally intended to prepare students for the Cambridge Advanced
or "A-Level" examinations.
Since the early 1970s, sixth-form institutions have also bestowed
Associate of Arts degrees sanctioned by the United States Association of Junior Colleges.
Management of each system varied according to level. In the
latter half of the 1980s, religious denominations controlled the majority of primary schools, but the government or
private, community-based boards of governors administered more than 50 percent of the secondary institutions. The
preponderance of government institutions at the secondary level was a relatively new development; as recently as
1980, the majority of secondary schools were under religious management.
Secondary schools also differed according to curriculum and
cultural orientation. Most private and denominational schools emphasized academic and commercial studies, although
some also offered technical-vocational programs. In contrast, the government directly managed nine schools, all of
which offered a curriculum oriented to technical-vocational subjects.
Today most of the public schools in
Belize are affiliated with a church. The Government of Belize provides funding for teachers' salaries. All other
monies necessary to run schools are provided by donations.
Nearly thirty years of Peace Corps, outside volunteer teachers
and technical vocational education programs run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
have greatly influenced Belizean educational culture.