PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Silveria Jacobs on Monday outlined some of the ministry’s plans for 2017 at the start of the public plenary session on the draft 2017 budget.
The plans for public education include finalising the education compensation system policy framework; regulating school bussing; finalising the ordinance on study financing; regulating the position of University of St. Martin (USM) via a Tertiary Education Ordinance; revision of the ordinances regulating primary and secondary schools and preparing an ordinance to regulate the supervision of education (Onderwijstoezicht).
Other plans include the extension of school hours; facilitating the implementation digital iSTEP and distance learning project; development of a strong Vocational /Labour Market Oriented Education Policy; reinstating transitional classes to prepare students for integration and improving monitoring and promotion of quality of education.
Also on the books are the installation of an advisory committee to restructure public education and streamline effective procedures; conducting an educational audit on at least two schools; holding workshops to strengthen special needs education as well as curbing behavioural problems, improving teachers’ and school managers’ competencies and skills regulating effective and efficient procedures to ensure sufficient human and material resources/supplies as well as implementing measures to reduce and control teachers’ absenteeism
In the area of culture, the ministry plans to activate and institute the National UNESCO Commission; research, write and execute an overall 10-year plan for the Decade of Revitalization of the Natural and Cultural Heritage; develop and design a culture law (in Dutch: cultuur wet) to support and regulate national heritage and cultural development; finalise monument labelling and finalise the cultural track and undertake cultural awareness campaigns teaching citizens about the culture of St. Maarten.
For the youth, the ministry plans to finalise its policy for early childhood development, its integrated youth policy, youth monitor and home schooling; execute sports and programmes (eg. aggression retraining programmes) specifically geared towards vulnerable youth; evaluate and execute a social formation programme (in Dutch: sociale vormingsplicht) to reduce the number of dropouts and research special summer school programmes and other programmes.
Other plans in the area of culture include establishing the Rights of the Child Committee; facilitating training programmes in areas of employment requiring specific training and skills; promoting youth entrepreneurship, apprenticeships, volunteerism and ambassadorship programmes; supporting crime prevention programmes for youth via Community Police Officers; maintain the empowerment of adolescent programmes for teenagers with relevant agencies and organisations and expand this to include primary school pupils.
Plans for next year in the area of sports include finalising and executing sports policies in cooperation with the National Sports Institute (NSI) and the St. Maarten Sports Federation; implementing a code of conduct for coaches, trainers and individuals in a position of guiding children and youth; further encouraging school sports, community sports and recreation and after school programme; creating a database of athletes/organisations, track record successes of athletes and facilitating the preparation of top athletes to form National Teams in sports to represent St. Maarten regionally and internationally.
As of Nov 2016, the ECYS ministry consists of 289 staff members of which 196 or 67.8 per cent are teachers for public schools. Currently, there are just over 7,900 students in the primary and secondary education system of St. Maarten.