The level of quality at schools in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba is generally good, but there is still room for improvement and the situation at some schools remains vulnerable.
Dutch caretaker Ministers of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven and Primary and Secondary Education and Media Arie Slob stated this in an update to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament late last week with regard to education in the Caribbean Netherlands.
“An evaluation shows that in the past years, the boards, directors and teachers of educational institutions in the Caribbean Netherlands have worked hard to accomplish further improvements in the quality of education in conformity with the agreements that were made in the Education Agenda,” it was stated in the letter.
“The conclusion is that important steps have been set and that progress has been made. All education institutions reached the basic standard of quality in 2019. Considering the circumstances of the Caribbean Netherlands, this can be considered a significant accomplishment.” The ministers noted that standards at one school had fallen below the basic level since then, without mentioning the school’s name.
In St. Eustatius and Saba, the secondary schools have been working on a transfer from the Dutch system to the Caribbean Examinations Council CXC, which has been completed.
According to the ministers, the quality improvement exercise has been a major operation for the schools on the islands. “At the same time, much still needs to happen. The quality of education may have improved in the past years, but the situation remains vulnerable at some schools.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on education, with schools having to close several times on the islands, depending on the local epidemiological situation. “At this time, we have a less current overview of the developments and we have no evaluation as yet of the possible learning backlogs due to COVID-19,” stated the ministers, remarking that the backlogs would have to be eradicated.
Schools in the Caribbean Netherlands will be able to make use of the Dutch government’s National Education Programme. The ministers assured that in the coming years they would keep supporting the schools and the other, related educational institutions on the islands so education can continue to be improved. Agreements will he made with the local stakeholders.
The ministers complimented the schools for making great strides in many areas of education, such as management capacity, professionalising of teachers, the implementation of a care structure for students and language education.
It was not entirely possible to measure the achievements in learning results, largely due to the fact the Dutch Inspectorate for Education had to largely carry out its supervision in remote mode due to the pandemic, as the inspectors were unable to visit the islands.
The learning results could also not be measured in detail because the schools still lack normed tests to consistently assess and indicate the learning growth and because it is expected that the COVID-19 measures will have had an adverse impact on students’ learning growth.
These issues are all being tackled, announced Van Engelshoven and Slob: the Inspectorate will be able to carry out its tasks physically by the end of the year, the development of normed tests for Dutch as a foreign language, English and Papiamentu started late 2020, and the schools will be receiving funding from the National Education Programme to get rid of backlogs.
As part of the exercise to further professionalise education in general, in particular the teachers, efforts are being made to set up an initial teacher training institution for prospective teachers and to start a training trajectory addressing educational needs for current teachers.
The ministers further referred to the 2020 evaluation of the education agenda for the Caribbean Netherlands, which an external researcher completed early 2021. All parties involved in the education agenda were interviewed for this evaluation. The ministers have sent the evaluation to the Dutch Parliament.
“We conclude from the evaluation that the educational institutions have made important strides that there is progress, while at the same time, much still needs to happen. The educational quality and management capacity at some schools remain weak.”
The findings of the evaluation will be discussed with the educational institutions on the islands in the coming months to arrive at agreements for the period up to 2026 and to support them to keep improving education. The local situation on the islands will be taken into consideration.
The Daily Herald.