A feasibility study must prove which language policy will best fit the local context and possibilities on St. Eustatius. This was decided by State Secretary of Education, Culture & Science (OCW) Sander Dekker and Commissioner Zaandam (Education) on Monday during a meeting in The Hague. Recent research shows that the population of St. Eustatius finds that students should learn English as well as Dutch on a good level.
In the first half of 2013, on assignment of OCW and the Executive Council of St. Eustatius, research was carried out on the advantages and disadvantages of a switch from English as language of instruction respectively maintaining Dutch as language of instruction. The researchers visited classes, held interviews with students, parents and education experts, tested students and studied literature about societies with a similar language situation.
On St. Eustatius English is the first or second language for the great majority of the pupils while English is also the dominant language in social life. Before the constitutional changes of 10-10-10 Dutch was the language of examination. In the primary schools pupils would start with English as the language of instruction and switch to English in the course of their primary school career. With the changes pertaining to 10-10-10 the government of St. Eustatius and the ministry of OCW agreed to maintain that situation. At the same time it was agreed that efforts in education would focus on reaching a quality level in 2016 that is acceptable to the European Netherlands as well as the Dutch Caribbean. For that reason schools have since then increased the number of hours dedicated to among others the Dutch language.
In their report “Language of instruction in St. Eustatius” the researchers concluded that Dutch as language of instruction at the moment forms a barrier for students to achieve good results in school or the transfer to continuation education. In order to achieve a good level of language skills in Dutch as well as in English, the researchers propose that English (Standard/school English) should be the language of instruction in pre-school, primary and secondary education. This because English is the first or second language for the majority of students. Dutch should, according to them, be taught as a foreign language because this language is hardly used in daily life on the island.
The researchers presented two possible options for the future of the language policy on St. Eustatius. Option one is a switch from English as language of instruction whereby Dutch is taught only as a foreign language. The second option regards also a switch from English, but then with a possibility for choice in the second year of the secondary school. Students can then, independent of their future plans, chose for a vocational training direction with English as language of instruction and Dutch as a foreign language or for a havo/vmbo direction with Dutch as language of instruction.
Early 2014 a research team will visit St. Eustatius to present the research results on “Language of instruction in St. Eustatius” to the population. In the meanwhile interested persons can request a public copy of the report at RCN/OCW and the schools on St. Eustatius.
The feasibility study will commence within short. Besides the two options from the report “Language of instruction in St. Eustatius”, the feasibility study will also take other possible scenarios into consideration which should result in the language of instruction on St. Eustatius no longer standing in the way of the success of students.
Press release RCN October 28, 2013