THE HAGUE–The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament is content that education in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba has made great progress in the past years, but some concerns remain about the high turnover of teachers, the lack of training possibilities for teachers and educational material that is based on the Netherlands.
The members of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Education, Culture and Science submitted a list of questions to Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven and Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and Media Arie Slob last week in response to an August 22 letter from the ministers about the developments in education in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The committee members were happy to read in the ministers’ letter that education on the islands has made a lot of progress and that the vast majority of schools have reached the basic quality norm. Compliments were given to all involved: the Inspectorate of Education, the schools, management, teachers and parents.
However, concern was expressed about the fact that of all schools, only the secondary education part of Gwendoline van Putten School in St. Eustatius had not reached the basic quality level as yet. The Christian Democratic Party CDA wanted to know when the Inspectorate of Education expected that this level would be achieved.
The green left party GroenLinks said it was “good progress” that almost all schools in the Caribbean Netherlands had achieved basic quality, but wondered whether the residents of the islands experienced the direct benefits of this progress in their daily lives. “A lot has been achieved since October 10, 2010, but after eight years we still don’t have optimal education.”
Several committee members shared their concerns about teacher shortage, lack of training opportunities for teachers and high teacher turnover, the latter being the case in St. Eustatius.
“The large turnover of teachers in St. Eustatius is a worrisome aspect. A shortage of teachers can result in having teaching personnel in front of a class who don’t have all the qualifications to teach,” stated GroenLinks. The party wanted to know how the ministers planned to tackle this large turnover.
Language is a great factor in this situation, with the chance that language skills among the (not totally qualified) teachers could be less, especially knowledge of the Dutch language, which in turn is essential as students often go to the Netherlands to continue their studies at the tertiary level, according to GroenLinks.
Noting that the islands were too small to have a full-fledged teacher training institution, in particular for first grade teachers, while there was interest among teachers to attain an additional or higher teaching qualification, GroenLinks pointed out that it was important to stimulate teachers on the islands to get that (additional) diploma. The ministers were asked whether they were willing to cooperate with the islands to work on this matter.
The Socialist Party (SP) asked whether the urgent problem the Netherlands currently faced with a severe lack of teachers was also applicable to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Considering the high electricity prices on the islands, GroenLinks wanted to know whether the ministers were willing to help lower the schools’ electricity bills by installing solar panels.
GroenLinks and SP asked about school books and education material being in Dutch and originating in the Netherlands. Being Dutch, this educational material is of a different context and not oriented to the Caribbean, its culture and history, the parties pointed out.
GroenLinks wanted to know whether the ministers shared their concerns that too much focus on the Netherlands within education on the islands could result in little self-development in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
SP asked whether the ministers had received signals from the islands and whether they too considered the situation undesirable.
SP wondered why employers in education – the schools – and the employees in education – the school staff/teachers – were not closely involved in the last collective labour agreement (CLA) talks, instead of leaving the initiative solely to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science OCW and the National Government Service RCN. “What steps have the ministers taken to ensure that employers and employees were involved?”
GroenLinks inquired about the acceptance of gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights in education. The party said it understood that talking about LGBTI acceptance has not been discussed in the schools on the islands.