The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports Homepage of the World Education Forum  
   Netherlands Antilles
  Contents of country report Homepage of country reports Country reports listed alphabetically Country reports by region  

Next Page

Part 1 - Descriptive Section


The Netherlands Antilles is a group of five islands in the Caribbean Sea. Two, Curašao and Bonaire, are situated near the coast of Venezuela, and the other three, St. Maarten, (St. Martin), St. Eustatius and Saba are situated near the United States Virgin Islands. It has a geographical area of 960 km2 and has approximately 209,000 inhabitants. The capital of the country is Willemstad, located in Curašao. As a group of islands they are fully autonomous in internal affairs and constitutionally equal with the Netherlands. The Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba are equal partners in the Dutch Kingdom.

The political structure of the Netherlands Antilles is a parliamentary system and has two governmental levels. Besides a central government, there are five island governments that deal with the local island affairs. The Netherlands Antilles as a constitutional unity is described as "country".

Tourism, petroleum transshipment, and offshore finance are the mainstays of this small economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. The islands enjoy a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure as compared with other countries in the region. Almost all consumer goods are imported, with Venezuela, the US, Europe and Japan being the main suppliers.

Education in the Netherlands Antilles is based on the principle that each child, regardless of religious faith, race or social status, has to be given the opportunity to develop him or her self completely. Primarily it is expected that the aim should be to strive to form the child to be an acceptable member of the society, in accordance with his or her individual capacities and natural abilities.

The educational system of the Netherlands Antilles is a diversified system. Of the five islands four are organized in the same manner as the Dutch system. St. Maarten has in addition to the features of the Dutch system also features of the educational systems of the USA and Caribbean states. The educational system in Saba is organized to prepare its students for the Caribbean examinations as prepared by the Caribbean Examination Council.

Education is considered an internal matter of the countries that comprise the Dutch Kingdom and as such is not regulated in the Statute of the Realm of the Netherlands, (constitution of the Dutch Kingdom). The regulation of education is considered the responsibility of the country. The Kingdom has, however, based on article 44 of the constitution been given the responsibility to guarantee freedom of education. The distribution of the responsibilities regarding education between the country and the different islands is regulated in the ERNA (Islands Regulations Netherlands Antilles).

The Minister of Education is the person with the prime responsibility for the organization of the educational system in accordance with the act. This responsibility lies on the national level. The maintenance of schools, however, is the responsibility of each island.

Beside the government (on named levels) the school board and the unions also have their responsibilities with regards to education, for both supervision and management. The responsibilities are spread over the various organizations in the supervision structure.

Supervision as related to education means providing advice and to offer support to individuals and groups in education. The recommendations and assistance occur for the continuance of a desired level of quality on the one hand and on the other hand for the promotion of educational development and innovation.

The goal of the support structure is twofold:

Activities with regards to supervision of education are performed by the following entities:

    1. The central government
    2. The island governments
    3. The proper authorities, namely the school boards
    4. The teachers’ unions

The responsibilities of the central government are:

Policy, research, statistics, planning, inspection, test- and exams, educational innovation, evaluation of diplomas, standardization of the Papiamentu language, legislation, and refresher courses. On the central government level the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport Affairs is responsible for education, and is supported by the Department of Education, Culture, and Sport Affairs and the Task Force Antillean Youth. The Director of the Department of Education, Culture, and Sport Affairs and the director of the Task Force Antillean Youth whom are entrusted with the daily leadership assist the minister.

The island government is responsible for:

Financing and/or subsidizing, educational guidance, psycho diagnostics and tests, research and planning, providing study and vocational guidance, non didactics supervision, scholarship financing, statistics, educational innovation, educational appliance development, and refresher courses.

The teachers union is also responsible for refresher courses for the teachers and educational innovation.

The supervision and care structure must be renovated considering the innovation of our educational structure.

It should be noted that there is a lack of coordination between these organizations. For this reason overlapping is frequent and impedes efficiency. The decision process could be slowed down and therefore cause stagnation of the supervision activities.

The management structure consists of the central government, the island governments, and the school boards.

The government must safeguard freedom of education and provide sufficient educational possibilities to all.

The school system unlike many of the Caribbean islands has both public and private schools. Statistical data indicate that more children attend private schools than public schools.

Each private institution operates under the aegis of a school board appointed by the foundation that has established the learning institution. The Executive Council is the school board for public education. Both the public and private schools are financed or subsidized by the island government.

The central government also contributes to financing education in the form of educational innovation projects.

1 EFA Goals and targets

Following is a brief description of the goals and targets decided by national authorities with regards to each of the six "target dimensions".

First the 'Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities' will be discussed. Subsequently, the subjects 'Universal Access to, and completion of primary education by the year 2000' and 'Improvement in learning achievement' will be discussed simultaneously.

And finally, the subjects 'Reduction of the adult illiteracy rate' and 'Expansion of basic education’ and ‘training in other essential skills required by youth and adults' will also be discussed simultaneously.

1.1 Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities

The objective of 'Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities' is:

To guarantee a balanced development of all preschoolers, which will be accomplished by structuring pre-school education through implementation of skeleton legislation.

Other goals are:

1.2 'Universal access to, and completion of primary education by the year 2000' and 'Improvement in learning achievement'.

The then government of the Netherlands Antilles formulated the following objective in her governmental program during the period that the EFA conferences were held in Jomtien:

'The government will direct its educational policy in such a way, that education will become an important instrument in the development of the country and community.

In order to reach this objective the following will have to be complied with:

  1. Present proposals to restructure the present educational system in the short term in order to achieve a better link between the educational system and local necessities and needs.
  2. Implement Papiamentu and English as languages of instruction in order to achieve an overall equality of the two most used languages on our islands, namely, Papiamentu and English with Dutch. This must be done in close consultation with the island governments.
  3. Conduct feasibility studies with regards to the implementation of compulsory education.
  4. Discuss the concept national ordinance regarding kindergarten education in order to provide it with the necessary legal basis.
  5. Promote overall participation of parents and students so that we can talk about an educational system that is borne by the whole community with input of all those concerned. Where necessary new legislation will be proposed.

In addition to quality improvement in kindergarten and elementary education the quality of special education will also be improved. These regulations will be concerning curriculum, continuing education for teachers, planning of education on school level, and quality care.

A specific issue for the government is the transition from elementary education to secondary education. The current standardized tests will be improved. The admittance procedures will also be improved in light of the developments in the area of educational opportunities.

As a final point we want to state that the introduction of information Technology (IT) in education is also part of the policy supported the government.

1.3 'Reduction of the adult illiteracy rate, especially the disparity between male and female illiteracy rates' and 'Expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills required by youth and adults'

The government of the Netherlands Antilles has formulated the following objectives:

  1. To further developed adult education, in her diverse forms, in cooperation with the island governments and private initiatives. A legal framework will also be provided.
  2. To combat functional illiteracy by providing the necessary attention.
  3. To formulate an integral policy framework to promote a healthy and optimal development of the Antillean youth.
  4. To structure the activities directed towards the youth by means of skeleton legislation.

1.4 Increased acquisition by individuals and families of the knowledge, skills and values required for better living, made available through all education channels

Within the national development policy that the government pursues attention needs to be placed on the social development and the well being of our community. The objectives that are pursued will have to be supported by education and training, supplied knowledge, insight, abilities, and attitudes. It is regarding the following objectives:

2 EFA strategy and/or plan of action

2.1 Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities

The strategy is mainly developed by the 'Sentro di Informashon i Formashon di Mucha NA (Children Information and Educational Center Netherlands Antilles, SIFMA NA) in conjunction with others (i.e. SEBIKI Bonaire) and have the following points of departure:

Quality care at the reception center:

  1. The development and implementation of basic courses for daycare center personnel;
  2. The development and implementation of courses, with a recognized diploma for daycare center leaders on two levels, namely LBO (Lower Vocational Education) and MBO (Intermediate Vocational Education);
  3. Minimum requirements valid for all islands; and
  4. Educational support for parents (head start home based program).

SIFMA N.A will monitor the progress of the plan of action in cooperation with external evaluators (for instance the Bernhard van Leer Foundation and other donor agencies). Furthermore, the Federal and island governments will require yearly progress reports. The Inspectors (Minister of Education) will supervise the quality of the courses for caregivers.

The need for quality daycare programs has been identified in the Netherlands Antilles as a basic learning need with regards to early childhood care. The strategy has been revised after it became apparent that good educational requirements are to be a prerequisite to quality daycare programs.

The educational courses are recognized and certified by the Minister of Education.

On the island of Bonaire SEBIKI (Stichting Sentro Boneriano di Informashon Edukativo pa Kuido Infantil – Bonaire Foundation for Educational Information for Infant Care) is involved with preschool education. Its objective is to promote and support the spiritual and physical wellbeing of children between 0 and 6 years, especially the care, supervision, and education.

SEBIKI tries to achieve this goal by the promotion of continuing education and creating requirements for the efficient functioning of childcare. Furthermore SEBIKI provides information, advice, and guidance for parents, educators, and groups who work in the area of childcare.

Collaboration and exchange of experience and information between child care centers and other organizations are also promoted. Help is offered for the establishment of new facilities, activities, and expansion and improvement of existing facilities in Bonaire.

SEBIKI works closely with SIFMA NA. SIFMA’s points of departure are also shared by SEBIKI.

In 1997 a step was taken towards providing instruction and quality supervision of the care centers in Bonaire. The island government has initiated conversations regarding subsidy requirements for the day care center and has established a work-group to give advice regarding the policy for care, educational support, and stimulation programs.

2.2 'Universal access to, and completion of primary education by the year 2000' and 'Improvement in learning achievement'.

In the year 1999, despite the economic problems and financial constraints of the Netherlands Antilles, the Central Government still considers education a high priority.

Presently, the focus is on primary education. However the Government aims at a comprehensive, integrated educational policy directed to the improvement of the education level of the total population of the Antillean Society.

The main principles of this integrated educational policy are:

The Minister of Education proposed some major changes in the educational system. These changes concern primary and lower secondary education. The focus will be on the creation of the demands of globalization, which guarantees a high percentage of pupils with a successful school career. Any reform proposal for the upper secondary education must take the proposed reforms of the lower education levels as its point of departure.

The education reform proposal suggested to innovate at primary level is the Foundation Based Education, which contains a total restructuring of the primary level.

The Foundation Based Education is characterized by:

With the introduction of this new system, modern teaching methods will be applied to facilitate individualized and group teaching to secure an uninterrupted development for all children throughout their school career. Evaluations are carried out at regular intervals for the purpose of monitoring both the quality and the levels.

The preparations for implementation have been recently started. In the year 2000 all schools will start at primary level (4 years old children) with the actual implementation of this innovation plan and it will be gradually implemented in the different cycles.

Lower Secondary Education

According to the gradual implementation of Foundation Based Education, it will take about 8 years before the implementation reaches the first year of lower secondary education. Due to the number of concerns related to the quality and relevance of secondary schooling at political level the decision has been taken in 1996 to temporarily introduce an education reform of the lower secondary education. This reform, called 'Basic Secondary Education' is regarded as a preliminary measure, an interim solution for coping with the present need for a solid foundation. After a few years Basic Secondary Education will be incorporated into the Foundation Based Education.

Basic Secondary Education has been introduced in school year 1998 - 1999 for all secondary streams without changing the existing structure. This means that the streaming of the primary school leavers based on their achievement levels will continue. Lower secondary education will consist of the four current streams. In other words: Basic Secondary education is a renewal of the content of lower secondary education while keeping the same structure.

The core objectives of this new kind of secondary education are:

  1. Acquisition of skills: inquisitive attitude, stating views, analyzing information, and cooperative work.
  2. Learning by doing: practice and application of acquired knowledge.
  3. Correlation between subjects and subject areas by, among other things, offering the subjects in an integrated manner.

The process of curriculum development for the different subjects has started with the participation of teachers. More time will be devoted in retraining of teachers concerning both the content and the teaching methods. The implementation process is being coordinated and monitored by a Project Management Office.

To improve participation in the educational system the law for compulsory education was enacted in 1991. The age of compulsory education is 6 - 15 years old. Due to different kinds of constraints the execution of this law is not successful yet in some of the islands. But each one is working hard to ensure that every child with the compulsory education age participate in the educational process.

Special Needs Education

Special needs education will also receive special attention from the government with the innovation in elementary education. The government stated the following goals:

Refresher courses for teachers

The teachers are the central-point of the educational innovations. They play a very important part in this. They form an important group of those who must shoulder and implement the innovation theories. Refresher courses become imperative in order to meet the requirements posed by the new educational system and important current requirement.

With this in mind the government formulated the following goals with regards to teachers’ refresher courses:

In the framework of refresher courses, plans are made on island level to establish a Refresher Courses Bureau. This bureau will provide refresher courses for all elementary school teachers. The refresher courses could be initiated on the initiative of the bureau or upon request of the school (s). The goal of this bureau is to work on the improvement of the competence and expertise of the educators and to support them. This bureau will be in the form of a foundation in which all the school boards are represented.

Information Technology (IT)

Information and communication technology (ITC) will play an important role in the educational policy.

In cooperation with the island territories a project will be initiated to provide schools with computers. The government is also looking into the possibility of incorporating this project in the collaboration projects with Holland in the area of education.

On the central government level a commission was called to life that will be in charge of the school IT problem.

Even in the private organizations one can encounter developments in this direction.

The idea is to initiate school pilot projects.

Contents Next Page