I’ve been reading all the various comments about the current state of education at Saba Comprehensive School and there seems to be a universal consensus that the state of education at SCS is in trouble. I learned a long time ago that everything emanates from the TOP, good or bad. First, let me say that the former SCS/SEF Board until this past fall was the caretaker of our children’s education along with the current Commissioner of Education and they set the tone, good or bad.
The MBO program is a disaster. The children have nowhere to go. The program that began many years ago is a bastardized version of the MBO program that is offered in the Netherlands that has been somehow blessed by OCW. The version of MBO that is offered here on Saba fails miserably in preparing ‘Vocational’ students Academically for the real world and many of the students who go through this Saba version of the program are not properly prepared for higher education. The MBO program is not recognized by any other school except for one in Bonaire and our children cannot attend that specific school because the courses are in Dutch. Without going through the CXC academic stream the chances of any SCS MBO graduate getting into a ‘mainstream’ university is null and void.
SCS’s MBO version is not the same as the MBO program in Netherlands. In the Netherlands students enter into the MBO level programs after they have progressed beyond Form 5. (In the Netherlands this group of kids may be taking a more vocational approach to the core subjects but they are not going full steam into job training). SCS’s MBO program forces our children to choose a ‘Vocational Career Path’ in Form 3. Now I ask you as parents, did you have a clear understanding of what you wanted to be when you ‘Grew Up’ at this point in your life? I think for 99.9% of us this answer is a resounding NO!
To make matters worse, Form 3 Vocational/MBO students spend a large portion of the school year in job training and when they return to school many lose focus on the importance of reading, writing and arithmetic. I believe that we need a ‘Vocational Program’ but I think that job training should wait until Form 5 or we add a Form 6 after we ensure that our children have an academic foundation.
One last comment about MBO. None of the MBO text books used in the Netherlands are available in English. Individual SCS teachers must create their own instructional programs for the MBO program and any consistency within the program goes out the window. If our kids cannot read and write properly how the heck can they realize their full potential?
Many parents on Saba have said that they would like to see CXC go away. CXC is a Caribbean based system born out of CARICOM and the former British Islands. CXC concentrates on the Caribbean for many of its subjects and does not give a complete world view outside of the ‘Islands’. History, Social Studies, Business, Accounting and many of the non-core subjects do not properly prepare students to take university level courses in the Netherlands, U.S. or Canada. Unless the students are going to an island university they often times struggle to catch up. The goal at SCS should be to better prepare our children for the schools that they will most likely attend and the places that they will most likely live and work and since we are not part of CARICOM it is highly unlikely that the majority of our students are going to work or live in the non-Dutch islands unless they have family there.
In our current educational system we use a mixed bag of curricula. At Sacred Heart they are using an American based system with added Dutch splashes as needed. SCS uses CXC which is blended with the Dutch requirements. Teachers must somehow prepare many of their students to go off to school in the U.S. and Canada. Where is the focus and the consistency in instruction?
Since the former board stepped down and a new board was selected the current director has been spending money. SCS went from one extreme to other. The former SEF Board micromanaged SCS but once the pervious board stepped down last fall, no one was overseeing school expenses. Was it not the role of the Commissioner of Education to supervise the school finances without a board? Now there isn’t any money for books and materials because of overspending by the current director.
We’ve also heard that many of the new teachers aren’t qualified. Was there a reason why the former board and the now absent Staffunctionaris selected these individuals? The current director is trying to fix the problem but money is required and he offered the teachers financial assistance. SCS is paying to qualify teachers and there is no guarantee that these teachers will stay once they become qualified. This is one of several reasons why the school is now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The old board refused in the past to hire unqualified personnel so why did they do it this time? Regardless of the answer the problem continues and we are in a downward spiral.
Vo-raad & New Board, A New Beginning?
Now, we are looking to the new board to solve the problem. However they are only a part of the solution. The first step in solving the problem requires each and every parent to take an active role in their child’s education. No one is going to do for your child what you want for them. If you don’t stand up for them then nothing changes.
Each parent needs to stop being afraid of retribution and take action. You need to decide if the current situation is acceptable. There are always options to solve a problem. The solutions will need to be bold and decisive since many of you have said that you feel betrayed by the Vo-raad: Where is the transparency that you were promised? Has anyone shared with you the vision for the future?
A Challenge to the Community:
You need to think, consider, discuss and speak with the architects of your child’s future: school management, specifically the current director. If the answers to your questions do not convey the confidence that you seek then consider all options because we’re talking about our children’s future and the future of Saba.
Non-parents need to support parents and the school because education is Saba’s future.
There comes a point when you’ve had an opportunity to act and you did nothing and that’s fine but you lose all rights to complain because you did nothing. Each of us needs to decide our own next step. I don’t know what it is for you but each person needs to control their lives. In this case it’s your children’s lives.
If you cannot make a decision, that’s also fine because you’ve decided to stay the course. There’s nothing wrong with that decision however, you cannot continue to complain about the school because you did not act. Silence is acceptance of the situation.
Name withheld on request.