The Oklahoma State University College of Education, Health and Aviation launched a new doctoral program in Belize last month, with 20 Belizean students pursuing a Doctor of Education from OSU. The degree option, which focuses on language, literacy and culture, is designed to train those who currently work within the country’s education system to be experts in literacy education.
“This initiative came out of conversations about what could truly improve literacy education in Belize,” said Jenn Sanders, head of the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences. “There is a lack of literacy education experts in the country who can teach others how to teach reading and writing well. By training these professionals through an advanced degree program, we can help improve literacy education throughout the country.”
The program was made possible through a partnership with the Belize Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture and its chief education officer, Dr. Carol Babb. As one of the highest-ranking members of the organization, Babb supports national literacy programs to increase literacy rates and implements school improvement plans to increase the quality of education. Babb’s connection to OSU began in 2007, when she joined the College of Education, Health and Aviation’s first Belizean doctoral cohort. The Ministry of Education has further demonstrated its support and commitment by providing a $5,000 scholarship to each student in the cohort.
Dr. Sanders explained that Belize is a perfect fit for the language, literacy and culture degree option.
“Almost everyone speaks multiple languages, and it’s a multicultural society,” Sanders said. “That makes it a really rich, linguistic landscape. This cohort will study the connections of language, literacy and culture and the ways to support K-12 student learners in those areas. The understandings and expertise these graduates will bring to instruction and to shaping curriculum is so meaningful and impactful.”
Dr. Sanders and Dr. Ben Bindewald, assistant professor of social foundations, traveled to Belize in August to teach the introductory course. The four-year program of study uses a hybrid format of face-to-face and online instruction. Additionally, participants will travel to OSU for one month of the summer, for two consecutive summers. Oklahoma State faculty will also lead courses in Belize one month during the summer.
“Many of the participants are already in leadership positions, and they will continue to move into top leadership roles and have a much greater capacity to improve literacy education in Belize,” Sanders said. “Within five years, we could really see a shift start to happen, and within 10 years, this could have a tremendous impact on the country’s literacy achievement.”
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