Caribbean Netherlands schools progress well despite challenges

THE HAGUE–The primary schools in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are developing very well. Secondary education and intermediate vocational schools in St. Eustatius and Saba are also progressing well. The Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) was placed under financial supervision late 2015, but it has reached the basic quality level.

Dutch Minister Jet Bussemaker and State Secretary Sander Dekker, both of Education, Culture and Science, were optimistic in an eight-page letter that they sent to the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday, about the progress that has been made in education since 2010.
Reports of the Dutch Inspection for Education show that an increasing number of educational institutions including schools, expertise centres and social formation facilities have been able to get their education on a sufficient level. “This is without doubt an impressive accomplishment given the initial situation and the context,” stated Bussemaker and Dekker.
Nine out of the 12 primary schools in the Caribbean Netherlands are now complying with the basic quality requirements. In St. Eustatius, all four primary schools: Golden Rock School, Lynch Plantation School, Governor De Graaff School and Bethel Methodist School now have the basic quality approval from the Inspection.

Saba’s Sacred Heart School also has the basic quality qualification. The three primary schools that have not complied as yet are in Bonaire, but are expected to reach this level within a short period.

The Inspection concluded during the inspections on the three islands late 2015 that the level of education, structure of the classes and management have further improved at primary schools, “This partly due to the highly motivated teachers. Considerable progress has been made in the area of coaching and care of pupils. The schools are also dedicating much attention to safety at school and the involvement of parents.”

The schools that have reached the basic quality have to keep working on maintaining that level. Improvement is still possible in the areas of the teaching process and a more efficient and differentiated use of educational time. In St. Eustatius, the schools have to make an extra effort in the transition to English as the language of instruction.
The SCS is the first secondary education school in the Caribbean Netherlands that has reached the basic quality. “The SCS constructively works on the improvement of education. The school has been working since 2014 on the formulating of a mission and vision with the involvement of the entire teachers’ team.”

Statia’s Gwendoline van Putten School is making steady progress with the improvement trajectory that started in April 2014. “This clearly shows positive effects.” The Inspection encountered a “strongly improved” labour climate within the team. “Teachers display a professional attitude. They are reflective and consciously work on improving the quality of education.”

The Gwendoline van Putten School is also working “with élan” on the transition to implement English as the language of instruction. The Inspection was content that the new school board has won the trust of the students, teachers and management. “This is a favourable point of departure to possibly secure the basic quality level in 2016.”
The SCS in Saba and the secondary school in Bonaire SGB are under financial supervision. The Inspection monitors the financial developments at these two schools. The board of SCS has indicated that it is taking steps to improve the financial situation in the future.
The secondary schools on the three islands offer intermediate vocational education MBO, but so far none are complying with the basic quality despite the efforts of all involved and the improvements that have been accomplished until now, concluded the Inspection. The Inspection will again perform an inspection later this year.

The letter of Minister Bussemaker and State Secretary Dekker contained a specific chapter on the progress of the language trajectory in St. Eustatius. Much work has been done in the past year to introduce English as the language of instruction. English is now the language of instruction at all primary schools on the island, as well as in the first year of the secondary education school. The transition will be further implemented at the Gwendoline van Putten School in the coming years.

The transition demands a lot of the schools. Teachers have received training, new teaching guidelines have been developed for English, Dutch and math, and new methods have been introduced. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture OCW has made funds available for this trajectory.

The transition to English has proven very beneficial for pupils and students who can now better express themselves and understand the classes. “This is also motivating for the teachers.” The new way of offering the Dutch language in schools has been enthusiastically received by pupils/students, parents and teachers.

However, the Inspection found that there was still much work to be done, also in light of the safeguarding of quality. The implementation of the English language in the vocational education requires attention. In general, the Inspection conclude that English as the language of instruction was broadly supported and implemented with “lots of energy.”
In conclusion, Bussemaker and Dekker stated that the increasing number of schools reaching the basic quality level in the Caribbean Netherlands created confidence that the further needed improvements in education will be realised. “This will require continued large input of all parties. We will actively support this.”

The learning performances in the Caribbean Netherlands are not on the level of the Netherlands as yet, and further improvement in education is needed. This is a long term trajectory, stated Bussemaker and Dekker.

The Minister and State Secretary want to work with all parties on the islands to arrive at new agreements for the next four years to further enhance education. The new Education Agenda 2016-2020 should be completed by the end of this year.

Source: Daily Herald