“Inclusive Education is towards a cohesive society!” For a better future of Inclusive Education in Belize~ Ms. Myra Arzu’s experience and plans~


JICA is implementing a country focused course “Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities” and planning to invite nine or ten staff from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology in Belize to Japan from 2023 to 2025.
JICA made some questions to Ms. Myra Arzu, the first and present participant in this course that was conducted from Aug 28 to Sep 30 in 2023.

JICA: How did you become engaged in inclusive education?


Ms. Arzu: My teaching career began in 1997. My first assignment was to teach at Silver Creek Roman Catholic School, Silver Creek Village in Toledo District. In August of 2002, I became an English Teacher at St. Micheal’s College presently Maud Williams High School in Belize City. Two years later I enrolled in the English Education program at the University of Belize. I worked during the day and went to school at night. Being a mother, working full time, and going to school part time was a difficult phase in my life but I emerged stronger and more resilient.

I spent 18 years teaching in the classroom and during that time, I encountered students with severe reading, writing, comprehension, behavior challenges and lacking reasoning and social skills. Many of these students were given a not-to-return slip or they became a dropout simply because their academic needs were not met. Deep down I knew this was wrong, so I ventured into finding support so students could remain in school and be supported. As a teacher and Head of Department, I attended numerous training sessions and later invited the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education to help teachers at the school where I worked.
While I worked as an English Teacher and tried to address students’ individual needs, I realized that the system must change because the system was not changing the students. Therefore, I encouraged teachers in my department to create students learning profiles to better understand their needs. Applying most of what I learnt during workshops to create interventions to support students had transformed me into a better teacher. I also recognized that students were eager to be in my class rather than to hang around the school campus. After discovering ways to address students’ needs and keep them engaged, was the time I fell in love with Inclusive Education.

JICA: What are the biggest challenges in the current state of inclusive education in Belize?

Ms. Arzu: Some of the biggest challenges we face are inadequate teacher training, cost to implement inclusive education and societal norms and attitude. The Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology is making every effort to train teachers on the Teacher Learning Institute (TLI) an online platform, face to face and now through a newly approved Certificate program on Belizean Inclusive Studies at a tertiary level institution. Another setback is the cost of implementing inclusive practices in the classroom. Teachers have voiced that funds must be allocated to assist them in purchasing classroom materials. Another common challenge is the fact that many people are die-hard of old attitude and refuse to accept accommodating children with disabilities in the classroom.


I encourage all advocates for Special Needs Education and Inclusive Education to become familiar with research that supports Inclusive Education and its benefits to society. Being knowledgeable of the challenges should allow one to focus on the solutions. Other areas of challenges are:

  • Misconception between Special Need Education and Inclusive Education
  • Lack of Inclusive Teaching Methods
  • Teachers lack knowledge of curriculum modification.
  • Large classroom size
  • Cultural factors- some cultures still believe that disability is a curse.
  • Lack of inclusive education policies.
  • Disconnection or lack of collaboration amongst education departments (literacy, curriculum…)
  • School infrastructure not inclusive
  • Lack of parents’ support in many cases
  • Lack of Research data to direct our planning.
  • Short on specialists (physical therapist, Speech therapist, occupational therapist, Special Ed. teachers) or multidisciplinary team.
  • The high cost of living- It is much easier for parents to keep their children at home especially if they are single parents without a job.
  • Lack of an early Intervention system (ages 0-3 yrs)
  • Lack of Inclusive education monitoring system.

JICA: What is the Special Education Unit's (SpEd) role?

Ms. Arzu: The role of the Special Education Unit is to provide educational services such as screening, comprehensive educational assessments, teacher and parents training and support, and help schools with a plan to support students with disabilities. The unit works towards ordinary measures for treating diversity in compulsory education and lifelong learning. Currently, the Unit is working towards the development of national Special Educational and Inclusive education policies.

JICA: What findings on Inclusive Education in Japan have you gotten so far?

Ms. Arzu: Japan’s idea of Inclusive education heavily relies on Special needs Education. For instance, the Yokohama municipal has a school for the blind, a school for the deaf, schools for learners with intellectual disabilities, and a school for children with health Impairment. An ideal Inclusive education setting would afford these students a general education setting with support and learning among non-disabled peers.
We visited two elementary schools so far, one piloting inclusive education and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)and reasonable accommodation in regular classes; the concept of inclusive education was vivid in the class session observed. The other elementary schools provided excellent special needs education to students with severe disabilities but struggle to support students with mild to moderate disabilities within the regular classes. One elementary school had two special classrooms of about 30 students of various age groups but has similar learning challenges placed together because low academic functioning. However, the 30 students attended sessions with their non-disabled peers in areas of strength. Inclusive Education would have these students in regular classrooms with their age peers supported by Differentiated Instructions (DI), Universal Design of learning (UDL), Response to Intervention (RTI) and whatever works in the classroom.


Back row, third from left is Ms. Myra Arzu

JICA: What are your plans to improve the situation in Belize?

Ms. Arzu: The Education Upliftment Pilot project was launched in Belize City by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology for school year 2022/2023. Four government high schools within Belize City were the beneficiaries of the project. The project provides targeted intervention in these four schools located in vulnerable at-risk areas in Belize City. Each student attending any of the four high schools receives free education, uniform, and a meal per day. In addition to the support listed, students also have a right to quality education.
Through a series of training sessions, I hope to broaden and strengthen the knowledge of teachers and school administrators of these four high schools on Inclusive Education and Inclusive practices. Inclusive Education is a vision to embrace diversity and provide equitable quality education to all learners. As a Special Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, I am tasked to support schools to meet the needs of all learners. During interaction with teachers and school administrators, they have expressed frustration to meet the needs of all learners in their classrooms and school. Therefore, providing training to teachers and school administrators on Inclusive Education is necessary and is in compliance with the UNCRPD signed by Belize in May 2011 and Ratified June 2011, the Education Act, the constitution, Salamanca Statement, CRC, and SDG4. 
Additionally, I encourage all advocates for Special Needs Education and Inclusive Education to become familiar with research that supports Inclusive Education and its benefits to society. Inclusive Education is towards a cohesive society!

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