Context: EWS is based on the premise that all students can learn with the appropriate support and was developed on the recommendation of a 2005 study, Impact of Crime and Violence on Children and Adolescents, that was conducted in Belize.
Students don’t drop out of school suddenly. The process starts with signs of disengagement that are often manifested over a period of years before the decision to withdraw is finally made. This is why the Early Warning System, a term usually reserved for environmental and weather conditions, is applicable to education since a system must be in place to detect and respond to children at-risk of dropping out. If not, the outcomes can be catastrophic.
At-Risk Indicators: These are the warning signs of disengagement in the school community and can be observed in students who are at-risk for dropping out. They are manifested in some of the following ways:
Objectives: To prevent students who are struggling in school from dropping out and engaging in anti-social behaviours, RESTORE Belize and the Ministry of Education have defined the following objectives for this programme:
- Sensitize school administrators and teachers to the warning signs of potentially at-risk primary school children.
- Develop teachers’ knowledge and skills for early detection of the warning signs displayed by at-risk primary school children.
- Help administrators and teachers to put in place the support mechanisms needed to minimize or eliminate risk factors.
Implementation: The Early Warning System has been integrated into the education system at 5 pilot schools, with a focus on early identification, intervention, and follow-up of students at-risk for dropping out at the elementary level.
It is a multi-tiered response system focused on preventing struggling students from dropping out and engaging in anti-social behaviors. The following diagram illustrates the process from Identification to Intervention.
Grounded in the principles of the Quality Child Friendly School Framework (QCFS) and Maslow’s Theory of Needs, the plan is designed to empower schools, educators and parents to use available data and resources to help all children achieve their educational goals. The Pilot Phase 1 began in May 2015 and continues for the 2017/2018 academic year with the following 5 primary schools:
- Buttonwood Bay Nazarene School
- Ephesus SDA
- Queen Street Baptist
- Central Christian Primary
- Trinity Methodist
In this pilot phase, classrooms have been renovated to become child-friendly learning spaces and teachers continue to be trained, monitored, and evaluated. In 2018 RESTORE Belize will once again hold its annual Readathon in partnership with the National Library Service, and it will also include a writing competition for the children preparing for BJAT.
Additionally, the programme has improved data collection in the pilot schools and is being expanded under the Ministry of Education to 9 other primary schools in Belize. This is an important step in the integration of the programme into the Ministry of Education with the ultimate goal of targeted scale-up of EWS and its best practices.