Primary education in Belize is compulsory with the majority of both boys and girls in primary schools. While education under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education is touted as free in public schools, children are required to pay supplementary fees which are unaffordable to the most disadvantaged. Though private, fee-paying schools exist, the majority of children attend public schools and the trend in most primary schools is that girls outperform boys academically. Some children, however, do not attend primary school on a regular basis for various reasons such as inability of parents/guardians to pay supplementary costs of education to cover transport, books, uniforms and lunch money. Other reasons include the inability of the education system to meet the special needs of the children who are disabled or have learning difficulties, and the inaccessibility of schools for children who live in remote rural areas.
Although the primary school enrolment rate is high, the quality of education remains an issue with many factors affecting quality including a lack of trained teachers; low salaries; high stress levels among teachers; increasing disrespect for the teachers; limited parental involvement; rote learning; and poor teaching methodologies among others. The management of schools in Belize is highly fragmented with most schools being church-owned/managed but sometimes there is a combination of church-affiliated schools, private schools and government-funded schools. This system causes variance in the quality of education in the country. Corporal punishment is no longer a form of discipline administered to children in primary schools, nonetheless great efforts are being made by government and partners to use more forms of positive school discipline.