Sunday , May 28 2023

Education issues on BES islands

The Daily Herald reports today that the Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker has invited the board of Statia’s Gwendoline van Putten School to discuss the alarming situation at the school and to discuss additional urgent measures. The article is based on the recent letter of the State Secretary to the Second Chamber on the progress on the Education Agenda for the Dutch Caribbean. The article in The Daily Herald focuses on the issues on Statia, but the content is much wider.

State Secretary Sander Dekker
State Secretary Sander Dekker

Saba-News has published the full letter (in Dutch) already yesterday on our Publication Board. (See here). The letter gives an overview of the issues known in The Hague. It also gives an indication of the cost of educating our students.: e.g. in 2013, on Saba, in the primary school, the cost was $ 8,500 per student per year and in the Comprehensive School it amounted to $21,000 per student/year. It appeared that the cost per student on Saba was the highest in the BES islands by far. It was explained that this was due to the smaller number of students on Saba.
According to The Daily herald, the State Secretary shared his concerns about the “severe shortcomings in the quality” of education at the Gwendoline van Putten School for secondary education in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday about the progress of the education agenda of the Caribbean Netherlands. The Dutch Inspection for Education stated in a report of November 19, 2013, that the severe shortcomings in the quality of education have shown insufficient improvement since the first inspection in 2011. The Inspection concluded that none of the quality domains complied with the basic quality and that a unified execution of improvements are impossible as long as there is no confidence between the school management and the teachers team.

The school has drawn up an improvement plan, which has been presented to the Inspection and the audit team that looked at the situation at the Gwendoline
van Putten School. However, both entities “still have insufficient confidence” in the ability of the school to execute this plan, Dekker stated in his letter. “That is why the State Secretary has invited the school (board), in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, to come with urgent additional measures,” Dekker stated.

One of the measures that the school took was the setting up of a special class which focuses on the backlog in education and language. The school lacks a language policy plan. The Dutch Government wants the basic quality of all schools in the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to be in order by 2016.
The Labour Party PvdA and the Democratic Party D66 had expressed their concerns about the situation at the Gwendoline van Putten School. The parties asked the State Secretary to share his view on the problems at the school and to indicate which measures he planned to take to address the situation.

Both parties had also asked the State Secretary to address the language in education issue. The situation is most urgent in St. Eustatius where Dutch is the language of instruction in secondary education. The Gwendoline van Putten School has already indicated its concerns on this matter. The school would like
to see a new method being developed with Dutch as the second language. Dekker explained that developing new methods is a time consuming affair. Instead,
he has asked several organisations in the field of education and language, in cooperation with the islands, to develop so-called Complementary Didactic Programmes, which serve to enable teachers to give content to teaching Dutch as a foreign language.

Bonaire has indicated that these programmes are useful and teachers will be trained in June. Saba, which has English as the language of instruction, wanted to know whether their own teaching method was suitable in combination with the programmes. Schools in Saba will start in August 2014 with the programme and the advised teaching method. St. Eustatius deemed the programmes unsuitable considering the teaching methods that are used on the island’s schools. A group of experts, including local language teachers, will develop a language skill module and a comprehensive reading module, which teachers at the primary schools will start using in August 2014. Teachers will be trained at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Responding to a question by the Socialist Party (SP) about the status of the plan to tackle teenage pregnancy on the islands and to make sure that these girls can finish school, Dekker stated that the teenage pregnancy issue indeed had a connection to education. The problem is most common in St. Eustatius, stated Dekker. The MegaD Foundation in St. Eustatius together with the Centre for Youth and Family will start the “We can young” campaign to empower girls and young women. Money is also being made available for Bonaire and Saba to participate in this campaign.

According to the State Secretary the setting up of vocational education in the two Windward Islands in August 2014 will also contribute to the educational possibilities for the teenage mothers.

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