Social Productivity Forum:
An Alternative and Complementary Curriculum Addressing Multiple Industries and Building Human Capacity

Abigail McKay

1. Introduction

Social productivity forum as an alternative and complementary curriculum is asking you to open your mind to teaching - learning that occurs outside of the classroom. It begs us to look beyond the formal methodologies of teaching and re-capture those strategies that were used prior to the development of the school system – apprenticeship. This was the medium through which you learned ONE trade really well. You honed the skill and the skill BECAME you.

For as long as civilization has existed humans have learnt from someone else who knew. And before that, humans learnt by experimentation. Someone had to try the berry to know if it was edible or poisonous?

As civilization becomes ultra modern we leave behind some good tools – cultural intelligence - that help shape the knowledge base of our citizenry.

The result is a generation increasingly able to live in the post modern world but increasingly less prepared to function in the basic elements of life.

2. Rationale: a need was assessed

The security of Belize is at risk without proper transitioning from one generation to the next. Values have been eroded over the last several decades. Immigration and open borders with limited structure and direction impact the social, economic and cultural context and landscape of the country. Emigration and ‘brain drain’ erode the socio-cultural environment and history. Regional and global influences contribute to an apparent ‘dysfunctional and depleted moral consciousness’ in Belize. Political independence in an unprepared political climate encourages political and governance ignorance.

Open hearts and open homes to all who ask to come in have highlighted our naďveté. Deferring decision making to others at the table has stifled our ability to lead. Results of the lack of discipline have shown up in our individual malaise, family dysfunction, non-professional core, moral bankruptcy and industrial inability. Responsibility for action lay in the hands of the adult generations of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

A transition is needed from the adults of those decades to the new adults of the 21st century. The Social Productivity Forum is one alternative to prepare youths to take the leadership ‘baton’ from the adults of the past century and run the leadership course in this new century to secure a future with strengthened Belizean identity steeped in culture, work ethic and citizenship for social, economic and spiritual growth.

3. Definitions

3.1 Social Productivity Forum

A quick opportunity will be taken here to define the terms used in the Social Productivity Forum concept. The social network of society is the focus of the concept. A deliberate focus is on output, efficiency and production. Forum references multiple mediums, opportunities and methodologies that can foster learning. One distinct example will be shared with you today as a curriculum to be implemented.

Social Productivity Forum’s ‘goal’ is to achieve excellence, quality and productivity in intellectual, moral, ethical and social standards. This goal will be achieved through the application of creative pedagogy, a teaching approach to create life learners.

3.2 Curriculum

The word curriculum comes from the Roman time period and referred to a race track. Today we use it in the context of running an academic course or even in to a career history.

Applying this definition to the Social Productive Forum is fairly easy. As in the ‘classroom’ curriculum, the ‘Social Productivity Forum’ curriculum ties the academic course (class), to teaching-learning always occurring in an unstructured way in the society but that is productive in any aspect of life.

The components of a curriculum are important to pay attention to whether it is reflective of a private or public institution or whether it is the Social Productivity Forum. Curriculum components applicable to the SPF include broader based approaches to several of the components applied to mainstream application of ‘curriculum.’ These applicable components include: rationale, goals, performance expectations and standards and assessment and accountability.

3.3 Student and Teacher

The word student, according to, is derived from the Latin word studere, to study. A student is someone who studies something, observes attentively with the outcome of learning and, more traditionally, someone who is enrolled in or attends classes or courses. The former two definitions are more appropriately linked to the Social Productivity Forum. In the ‘course’ proposed, the student is referred to as the Scholar.

Teachers in mainstream teaching environments impart knowledge or expertise in particular subject matters. Social Productivity Forum teachers, dubbed ‘mentors’, also share knowledge, skills and expertise as do their counterparts in the mainstream academic environments. Social Productivity Forum mentors are directly engaged as advocates to influence scholars’ learning through example and experience.

4. Social Productivity Forum Intervention: Alternate and Complementary Curriculum

It has been said that

what schools do not teach may be as important as what they do teach. Ignorance … has important effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a situation or problems. … absence of a set of considerations or perspectives or the inability to use certain processes for appraising a context biases the evidence one is able to take into account. … parochial perspective or simplistic analysis is the inevitable progeny of ignorance. ~ Elliot Eisner ( sourced November 7, 2010)

In addition to the Socratic method of teaching … learning occurs by following the example of others who know how to … and … lead in doing. This apprenticeship method is one that can be and must be applied to leadership training, NOT as an alternative, but in addition to, the Socratic or any other method.

4.1 An expression of social productivity: the Transitional Leaders Corp

The Social Productivity Forum allows individuals and groups to share and learn from thoughts, expertise, and experiences. This alternative and complementary curriculum teaches productive citizenship. It engages and rejuvenates our social foundation for transformed socioeconomic wellbeing. The Transitional Leaders Corp is how the Social Productivity Forum is implemented. It is a two year scholarship opportunity for adolescents to enhance their capacity as productive leaders and citizens in their circle of friends, schools and neighborhoods.

Transitional Leaders Corp is designed to address the problem of a lack of transition of social, economic and development leadership from one generation to the next. Limited or unstructured leadership transition poses a security risk to a nation.

4.2 Transitional Leaders Corp Elements

There are seven key elements for Social Productivity Forum. These are: scholarship, citizenship, moral and spiritual values, nature and environment, artistic expression, wellbeing and entrepreneurship. All are addressed in the Transitional Leaders Corp.

Nature and Environment

A key component of the Transitional Leaders Corp is travel each quarter to a different part of the country, covering all six districts in the two year period. It contributes to exposure and appreciation of nature and the environment. Travel is an important teaching tool and nature itself is the ‘classroom’.

Entrepreneurship and Values

Mentorship enhances entrepreneurial skills. Mentorship fora will occur in the following areas: industry and commerce; morality; governance; journalism and the media; judiciary; sports; academia and wellbeing. Mentorship implies ‘action’ by the mentee. Mentorship is the most important teaching tool to develop entrepreneurship and moral values.


Leadership skills’ training in specific skills’ areas with complementary training in core values’ are also key areas of focus. Leadership skill training areas include: parliamentary rules and regulations, documentation, delegation, roles and responsibilities, resource mobilization, planning, evaluation, report writing, and other relevant areas. These skills prepare scholars for leadership and productive citizenship.

Wellbeing and Artistic Expression

Nontraditional sports of checkers, dominoes, chess, badmington and table tennis are among the sports to which participants will be exposed to support mental and physical wellbeing. Other nontraditional and cultural entertainment encourage expression.

Human and health services’ support is built into this comprehensive alternative and complementary curriculum. Referrals and partnerships with public and private sector services facilitate the goal of optimal wellbeing, increased awareness of and access to services during and following the scholarship.


Academic scholarship is key. Pursuit of formal education is critical. Maintenance of individualized academic excellence is required.

Contractual agreement on these elements is requirement for acceptance as a Transitional Leaders Corp scholar and a leader.

4.3 Transitional Leaders Corp Scholar

Applicants must be Belizean residents or citizens (by birth or naturalization). Adolescents countrywide, between the ages of 13-15, who are engaged in leadership roles in schools and other groups, can participate. Proportion of scholars from each district will reflect the estimated district population. Parent and guardians, everyday Belizean heroes, form an important component of the mentorship process and the home based support to scholars.

All successful applicants are dubbed Scholars. The scholarship is for two years, following which the scholar is identified as alumnus and act in a leadership role of ‘technical resource’ for the next cohort of scholars.

5. New beginnings in the 21st century

Before ‘pedagogy’ when society needed hunters, fishermen, or gatherers there was the practice to “Do after me! Do as I do!” Actually, this apprenticeship method is still applicable today.

The ancient Greek society was known for their excellent apprenticeship. However, when they needed speakers for public discourse, pedagogical instruction was established. Apprenticeship continued.

When society needed more intricate craftsmen or workers, technical schools and pedagogies for technical teaching were developed. Apprenticeship continued alongside these new developments.

When society needed more knowledgeable professionals, like engineers, doctors, and teachers, knowledge acquisition pedagogy through formal schools and colleges sprang up around the world. There continued to be hunters, gatherers and other trades people who learnt by following the methods of others. Apprenticeship continued.

Today society needs higher technologically smart and globally able professionals so the pedagogy of distance and online teaching are occurring. There continues to be a need, however, for hunters, gatherers and other trades people who learnt by following the methods of others. So … apprenticeship continues.

Transitional Leaders Corp, an active engagement of the Social Productivity Forum, allows for a continuation of teaching learning through apprenticeship. The Social Productivity Forum allows space and opportunity for individuals and groups to share thoughts. It provides a meeting of the minds for action (value added) beyond the practice of problem identification and generalized solution from a perspective of ‘someone ought to…’ (value neutral) or a perspective of blame (value subtracted).

Even as civilization becomes ultra modern we can carry along some good tools – cultural intelligence – to shape the knowledge base of our citizenry. The result will be a generation increasingly able to live in the post modern world AND increasingly prepared to function in the basic elements of life. Necessity continues to be our mother of invention. Apprenticeship continues to be our father of social productivity.


I single out L. Emerson Guild for his steadfast, dynamic and much needed involvement in the discourse over the past 2 decades in journey towards the Social Productivity Forum. Four community based or non-profit groups have had significant influence in the development of this effort. They are Creole Association for Retrevial, Retention and Promotion (CARP) a pre- cursor group now subsumed in the National Kriol Council, EmergentCorp, Belize Action Community and the Patrimony Stewardship Working Group. In each of these groups, Mr. Guild has been a focal point in the success of each – a critical mind and an able and willing body. He is an outstanding Belizean who has worked tirelessly to remove injustices, create balance and promote the development of social capital. Those of you who have worked with him will agree with me that he is an outstanding Belizean.


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© Abigail McKay

HTML last revised 9th November, 2011.

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