Quality at Caribbean Netherlands schools good, vulnerable at some

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.

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