Monday , March 20 2023

Poor Dutch language skills put Caribbean students at disadvantage in Holland

Caribbean students studying in the Netherlands are at a disadvantage because of poor language skills, a report by the Soualiga Foundation found. Stichting Soualiga Foundation caters to the specific social and cultural needs of Sint Maarteners living in the Netherlands. Other factors that hamper studies are poor preparation before departure to the Netherlands, a lack of discipline, and problems with integrations, discrimination and peer pressure.

The survey – taken during a student forum in April – showed that students have “an inherent desire to contribute to the building of country St. Maarten” and to return to the island after the completion of their studies. “A majority of the participants (in the survey – ed.) had a healthy sense of responsibility with regard to returning to St. Maarten to share their knowledge and develop the country.”

At the same time the student came up with a long list of conditions and suggestions. The promises made in the incentive package proposed by the government should be upheld was the remark that topped the list. Posting vacancies in the civil service and the private sector on a web site and increasing the minimum wage to “a suitable level” were two other suggestions.

Students also said that they want to be able to function in the areas they studied for. They also called for a control on the housing market and to provide affordable housing so that returning students are not forced to go and live with their parents again.

The students furthermore demand “increased transparency with regards to laws and activities within government controlled companies.”
Students also expressed concerns about the crime situation on the island. One student suggested sending down 100 unemployed police officers from the Netherlands to St. Maarten for a year on a rotation basis.

The survey also showed that students are aware of the country’s poor ICT infrastructure (“needs to be drastically improved”). They also call for policies that promote diversification of the economy and for combining foreign investment with social infrastructure improvement. “Foreign companies must contribute to the maintenance or improvement of roads, schools and hospitals.” Incentives and support for small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-up companies are also important to students.

And while many of them feel discriminated in the Netherlands, they also called for updated legislation “to offer protection against discrimination to all St. Maarteners, regardless of race, creed, physical ability, sexual orientation and gender.”

Students were also asked for reasons why they would not return home. In a nutshell: “Corruption, nepotism, deficiencies in the infrastructure, the downturn in the economy and the small-mindedness of the government and the St. Maarten society.”

The main reason why students from St. Maarten struggle with their studies in the Netherlands is poor mastery of the Dutch language, the survey showed. “The majority of St. Maarteners face the same problem: the inability to adequately express themselves in Dutch This problem, particularly in a society where assertiveness is encouraged and supported from a young age is a great disadvantage. The level of Dutch (upon leaving the island) is therefore a major factor influencing the academic performance of St. Maarteners in the Netherlands.”

Language is not the only issue. Many students find the preparation sessions they undergo before their departure “inadequate, vague, and eleventh-hour.” The sessions do not provide information that reflects the reality of living in the Netherlands, students said.

Students also admitted that procrastinating and lacking discipline contributed to failure. “For some students who leave St. Maarten to study in the Netherlands is their first taste of freedom. Some will cope better with that than others.”
Students pointed out that the Dutch “make sure to remind them at every opportunity that they are different.” Integration and discrimination are therefore also factors that negatively impact study results. “Not accustomed to being on the receiving end of discrimination, some students find it hard to cope with situations of prejudice,” the report states. This applies especially to “being ostracized by colleagues and teachers because of insufficient Dutch language skills. This can break confidence and motivation.”

Money is yet another issue that gets students in trouble. Especially MBO students indicated that their study financing was not or just enough to cover their expenses. Poor financial administration skills are not helping either.

The full report is available on the Facebook page of the Soualiga Foundation.

Source Today, October 29, 2012

Editorial of Today:

Education Minister Silveria Jacobs has work to do or, to be entirely correct, more work to do, after she received the report from the Soualiga Foundation about the experiences of St. Maarten’s students in the Netherlands.
The main stumbling block for academic success on the other side of the ocean seems to be the lack of language skills. This is not about any language skill: the students are not proficient enough in the Dutch language. That makes them a target for teachers and fellow students and it obviously also hampers their ability to learn.
Add to this that for most meaningful government jobs in St. Maarten mastering Dutch is practically a prerequisite and we all know what needs to be done.
Our kids have to become better in Dutch; the government has to take the lead here and make sure that this happens.
There is obviously no overnight-solution but the language issue needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. Making a language test part of the process to qualify for study-financing would probably encourage students to put more effort into upgrading their Dutch.

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  1. Be smart, there are many universities in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world catering to foreign students. One doesn’t need to know Dutch, German etc because many courses are in English.

    One whose child is studying in the Netherlands

  2. You are correct, Sidney, that most of the universities in Holland offer studies in English. Unfortunately,in reality, the level of students that leave the Saba Comprehensive School at the highest level, have such a low absolute knowledge level that they can only enter at the Dutch education system at MBO or, at the maximum, HBO level. In other words, way below the level that is required to enter Dutch Universities. One would need at least 3-4 years of HBO studies to be at the entry level of the University.

    Our students are faced with the situation that MBO and HBO schools nearly only offer studies in Dutch. There we have the problem that the St. Maarten students faced.

    At least in the past, the Comprehensive School gave the students a completely wrong picture of what they could expect in the Dutch education system, with the present director of the school as an excellent example of giving the wrong information when he was quarter master for education, working for the RCN.

    So, from my knowledge, the experience of the St. Maarten students is very relevant for what our Saban students can expect. Will they be better prepared tomorrow?

  3. Indeed students of the SCS are not able to enter Dutch universities. The entrance to universities is limited to students with a VWO level. The CXC-CSEC is more comparable with the HAVO level, so it is obvious that Saban students with enough CSEC certificates can start in the HBO. There are quite a lot HBO courses offered in English, and also some MBO courses (especially in Hospitality and Tourism).

    As I told students and parents in the previous years, many univesrity courses can be entered after the first year in a related HBO course. An other possibility is to enter a university master after completing the HBO. In both ways it is possible for a student to finish a university master in the same time as Dutch students do, for VWO lasts (at least) 6 years, whereas the students on Saba can graduate within 5 years.

    Of course it is important to improve the level of Dutch language. As far as I know, the school is working on this. But, in my opinion, another thing is far more important, as I stated in many occasions the previous years. In Holland students are educated to work quite independent, whereas in the Caribbean the schools are still more accustomed to reproduction. I hope Saba Comprehensive School will manage to raise the level of Dutch, and to stimulate the students to take their own responsibility for their learning process.

    Finally there is one other thing to be mentioned. In Holland is the percentage of students leaving secondary school with a HAVO or VWO diploma is about 20%. This means that about 80% of the Dutch students follow a course on a lower intellectual level: MAVO or pre-vocational training. In my years as SCS principal I liked the students very much, but I didn’t notice any reason to think Saban students are far more intelligent than their Dutch peers. So I think it is in the interest of the youth and of Saba in general to invest in the vocational training and its appreciation on island.

    As my time on Saba is gone, I’ll say no more about it. I wish students and staff of the SCS all the best!

  4. A question of language…

    It’s only since the change over that I have, on several occasions on Saba been told I should speak Dutch, primarily because my vernacular of the language I speak is of Celtic origin and influence, ergo not quite Hyacinth Bouquet enough.

    I lived in Holland for three years, every attempt I made to speak Dutch was received with a grin and an instant response in perfectly spoken English.

    One memorable moment on a job in the Netherlands at the European Space Agency in Noordwijk, I asked an Italian Fella in my broken attempt of the language ” Hoe gaat het met je nederlandse”, He replied in English, and I quote: ” keep that up and you’ll be pouring coffee and cleaning toilets before you know it”.

    When 2.6 Billion people on planet earth speak/understand English, the measured choice is to exchange that figure for around 100 million Dutch linguists (I’m including South African and Belgium here, it’s just a dialect thing, much to the chagrin of some pseudo intellectuals I’m sure), and those reasoning this think for a second you are broadening the horizons of the young people of Saba… They gotta be outta their tree. Of misschien een beetje achterlijk of so.

    However I’m British and therefore linguistically retarded, so… lazy and bias by definition. However my math works just fine.

  5. Well said Malachy,
    The Dutchies should give up their funny tradition of speaking Dutch and properly integrate into Saba. English will become the national language, like in the US. If they behave, we may grant them the right to keep their dialect in some areas.
    The European Netherlands would be promoted to a special public entity our Council would become the legal government for the whole of the country and our Governor the prime minister. All our problems solved in one shot.

  6. Eddie for president!

  7. Eddie, I may have masked my sarcasm.

    Institutionalized personalities are institutionalized for a reason. Fear of the ethos of being an individual and coddled by the comfort of being part of a whole.

    I have an experience of dealing with the “Dutchies”, in the chosen style of David Attenborough, I shall elaborate: I Found the natives to be well educated and more than globally aware. Their use of bicycles, command or irrigation and linguistics was confounding, it’s almost like they had a natural perchance for integration, survival & preservation…

    That said, I’m just a little bemused by the flotsam and jetsam that has recently washed ashore. As I fear they aren’t the best of the best, maybe they’re here because they malfunctioned there, if so… that shows a great amount of disrespect from their handlers.

    But hey, if to be bemused and confused is an acceptable state to be in. I’d rather be that than a kindler of ignorance.

    A little off topic to be sure, but remember it’s just an observed opinion.

  8. To be sarcastic I would say, they really know how to make themselves popular. Be it on this topic or with their unreasonable introduction of the new Asycuda procedure nonsens, or not to take our “first” language into the constitution and so on and on. I always thought they were smart people but I start to doubt that and I’m sorry about it. It is so much easier and efficient to deal with smart people instead of arrogant, self-consumed and self-serving bureaucrats and politicians whitout local knowledge and respect for the people they (supposed) to work for.

  9. Chill Wolfie, Saban’s ain’t stupid, and I’d like to believe the foreigners who fell in love with this place for it’s full-on honesty aren’t either.

    From a marketing point of view I believe there is a window for the lifetime unchallenged idiots from the “mainland” to be sent here in khakis and pith helmets.

    When they walk past our brand new gates at the harbour, instruct them to the right and not the left… and allow our team of expert paintballers to shoot the s__ out of them by the stone crusher.

    It’s a little bit Endemol in theory, but well hell… If Jersey shore and big brother can work… Let’s take our cut.