Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker is satisfied with the improvements made at primary schools in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but he is less positive about the results of the secondary schools where he says the basic quality is still lacking. This writes The Daily Herald.
The state secretary sent a letter about the progress of improvements in education in the Caribbean Netherlands to the First and Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. He also sent the inspection reports of various schools on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to Parliament. The reports were drafted by the Dutch Inspection for Education and gave an impression of the progress of improvements in education on the islands in 2014. The Inspection not only looked at the (basic) quality of education at the schools, but also examined the status of intermediate vocational education (middelbaar beroepsonderwijs) and the social formation trajectories for youngsters on St. Eustatius and Saba.
Some schools on the islands, especially in primary education, are progressing very well. Performing exceptionally well has been the Golden Rock School on St. Eustatius, which the Inspection found to be compliant with the basic quality. Several other primary schools on the three islands are expected to realise this grade within short, stated Dekker.
However, the Inspection also concluded that several schools have a lot of catching up to do in order to arrive at an acceptable level of basic quality education, noted the state secretary. It has been agreed with the islands that all schools should have realised a basic quality by 2016.
The use of coaches in primary education has proven successful, but improvements to the quality care and the support of special care pupils remain vital points of attention. The state secretary confirmed that coaches would remain available for primary schools and their management.
The picture of secondary education is mixed, stated Dekker. “The situation in secondary education on all three islands is fragile and the improvement of the quality of education is progressing insufficiently.”
Dekker commended Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson and the management coaches for restoring tranquillity at the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS). A new school board has been appointed, an improvement plan has been actualized and a parent association has been installed for the SCS.
St. Eustatius appeared to be on the right track, stated Dekker. The board of the Gwendoline van Putten School appointed an interim director in April 2014 following the critical report of the Inspection of 2013. Together with the board, a number of positive steps were set last year. This process was continued by the new director. Dekker lauded the fact that an action plan was drafted. “This gives me confidence.” According to the state secretary, the Inspection deemed it too early to determine whether sustainable improvements have been realised. He said that improving administrative efficiency required great efforts, but that he found it positive that the board was open to support in this process.
The state secretary confirmed that he will be making additional funds available in the period 2015-2018 to facilitate further improvement for secondary education on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but under the condition of actualized improvement plans and cooperation with the management coaches. Dekker also addressed the level of intermediate vocational education in his March 3 letter.
This form of education started on St. Eustatius and Saba in the school year 2012-2013. As such, the results of only a few educational trainings could be determined. The Inspection concluded in May 2014 that these programmes didn’t comply with the basic quality requirements. The Inspection will again look at the examination of this education early in 2015.
At that time, the Inspection will also check the social formation trajectories for youngsters on St. Eustatius and Saba. The Inspection determined during its last assessment in October, 2014, that improvements had been realised in the area of social formation. Preparations are in full swing for the transition of switching from Dutch to English as the language of instruction at schools on St. Eustatius. The University of St. Martin (USM) was recently contracted to train all teachers in the English language. The Curriculum Development Foundation in the Netherlands is supporting the schools to develop an English curriculum, while the Language Union of the Netherlands is assisting to develop material to teach Dutch as a foreign language. There is close cooperation with Saba and know-how is being exchanged with St. Maarten.
The Inspection reports showed that the support of special care pupils/students was being developed at many schools in the Caribbean Netherlands and that visible improvement were realised. In some schools care for this special group of children was already well-developed. “This is positive,” stated Dekker.
However, education for pupils/ students with a big backlog of more complex problems remained a source of concern.
Laws regulating the management and governance aspects will go into effect after August 2016. This means that schools have until August 1, 2016, to arrange the separation of supervision and management and to find suitable persons. The Inspection has been asked to draft an overall report on education in the Caribbean Netherlands in 2016. The Inspection and state secretary acknowledged and take into consideration that schools in the Caribbean Netherlands, on both primary and secondary level, have been facing multiple challenges, especially when compared to the Netherlands. Some of these challenges include the fact that Dutch is a foreign language for most pupils, there is mostly one school for secondary and intermediate vocational education per island, there are no separate schools for special education, education infrastructure is lacking where schools can, for example, attain advice and the large percentage of special care pupils.