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Drop-out problem

Dropout is defined as the premature renouncement of school without achieving the minimum qualification necessary. This is an old problem to educational system. A few years ago dropouts were mostly found on the elementary education level, however today one can notice a switch to the secondary education level. (Implementation of compulsory education has contributed to this) A recent research, conducted under direction of the Minister of Education shows a dropout percentage of 23%. This refers to the youth group between the ages of 14 and 20, consisting mainly of males. It is important not to neglect the group of immigrants that form part of this group.

The reasons that lead to drop outs are many. The more prevalent factors are:

Here we find aspects like family circumstances, financial situation, parents’ working circumstances, living conditions, spiritual and physical well being. All of these can form bottlenecks that can influence successfulness in school.

The current educational system does not provide equal opportunities for all children. And children from the lower social economic group of families are the main victims. With this disadvantage these children enter the educational system, and the system has proven unable to accommodate these children and teach them in such a way that they can also successfully complete their education. The research has also indicated that children who drop out of the system are those who have also repeated a class (es).

Pregnancy is alarming among the youth. These students do not return to school after their pregnancy and school policy does not encourage them to return to school either. And frequently these students do not possess any information regarding future educational possibilities. For this reason after a pregnancy most youth do not attend school or any other course or training.

Children from immigrant families drop out of the educational system more frequently than the Antilleans. Due to their age it is difficult to place them in an appropriate grade, and because they do not know the language of instruction (Dutch) they can not keep up. Finally they stay away from school.

Research results have shown that:

  1. Male dropouts are more frequent than females
  2. Participation in education among the Antillean youth after the compulsory age decreases and completion is based on personal motivation of the individual
  3. Completion of education is not always based on intellectual capacity

The result of dropping out is limiting continuing education possibilities. Consequently their admittance to the labor market is restricted. Many of them become unemployed or end up in low paid jobs. Improvement perspectives are slim and they end up in an overwhelming vicious circle.

The dropout problem is very complex. It not only affects the area of education but also the labor market, social affairs, youth, welfare, and justice. An inter-sectored approach on both central and island levels is necessary due to the complexity of the problem. Considering the origin of the causes of dropout an integral policy must be formulated in order to achieve a solution for this problem. This policy must be both preventive and restorative.

This means that education will have to start considering the circumstances of each child and also the cultural background of the majority of the students. Education will be given in the child’s mother tongue and will consider individual differences.

Teachers will have to be refreshed and retrained in these areas. School has to strive to counteract dropout by, starting with the preschooler, stimulating, supporting, and guiding the students in their studies. This also applies for the elementary, secondary, and advanced levels of education. The ideal is for each child to achieve at least the minimum level of education.

Beside the preventive dropout policy a restorative policy is also necessary because dropout can not be prevented in all cases. This restorative policy must ensure that dropouts must be offered a second opportunity to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in order to increase their chances in the labor market.

The migration problem in the Windward islands in relationship with education.

The implementation of compulsory education has been a subject of study from the beginning of the century. There has been regular discussions regarding the need of compulsory education. As a result of the ratification of the international treaty regarding economic, social, and cultural rights of December 19, 1966 by the 1979 Netherlands Antilles Council, the central government has compelled itself to introduce compulsory education on all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles. As stated in the prior paragraph the compulsory education regulation became a reality on July 19, 1991. It is a general law, however the island territories must supervise the implementation of compulsory education. The regulations were not implemented in all the island territories at the same time. Based on the first paragraph of article 15 the island territories were allowed to postpone implementation of the regulations until the 1996 school year. This means that compulsory education will be effective as of August 1, 1996 in the Netherlands Antilles. Of all the island territories only St. Maarten has not been able to implement the legislation. The migration problem is mentioned as the bottleneck to implementation. St. Maarten has a regular immigration from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Dominica and Haiti. This means a regular inflow of students that becomes almost uncontrollable. This includes children from both the legal and illegal foreign residents. Immigrants also proceed from the French side. The fact that there is no control on the border of Dutch and French St Maarten compounds the problem. This influx is the main reason why educational resources are never sufficient due to the fact that there is no grip on the developments. There is a constant discrepancy between educational supply and the demand of the possible educational resources. This situation will only get worse if compulsory education is implemented officially. This will give both legal and illegal children a right to education, with the result that the amount of schools, teachers, stud material, school material etc. will have to be increased. This will mean that additional financial resources will have to become available that is simply not there. The language problem is another existing problem that will worsen in the future. Additional resources will have to be used for foreign students, namely the Spanish and Haitian students.

It appears that the island government being the responsible authority for education will request co-financing.

It becomes more remarkable every year that the population of the public schools includes more immigrant students compared to the private schools. This tendency will become more apparent in the future and can be explained in the fact that the private schools do not take these children. Their admission policy permits them the freedom to refuse these children. For this reason the island government will have to take care of a great part of the educational resource.

The last developments show that the compulsory education regulation was discussed by the executive council, but from a legal standpoint a few points will have to be reconciled to the compulsory island regulation.

Besides a solution for the migration problem, which is really a judicial problem instead of an educational problem, the necessary preparation exists for the success of the implementation of compulsory education, namely, implementation policy, set up of appropriate administration, implementation supervision, and information to the school boards and parents.

Named problem has its effects in other areas of education.This is in reference with adult education. Immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Dominica and Jamaica mainly pertain to the lower social economic class. By migrating they try to better their living conditions and create perspective for their children.

Often the immigrants have a low educational level. They form a separate group. At least there is a language barrier that needs to be removed. Besides other skills they would have to first learn the language, English or Dutch. Secondly, they will have to discover the organizations that offer the programs appropriate for them. In the framework of adult education they will have the possibility to increase their level of education.

Chances are great that a big group of immigrants will not find their way to adult education due to their illegal status.

8. Main problems encountered and anticipated

As stated in paragraph 7, the bottlenecks that have limited the progress and achievement of specific EFA goals will be discussed further in this paragraph. Named points were mainly in the areas of educational innovations, pre-school education, and adult education.

  1. Political affairs
  2. The Netherlands Antilles has two governmental levels, a central government and five island governments. The central government formulates the educational policy, yet the island governments have much input with regards to the implementation of the policy. This means then that the success of for instance educational innovations is strongly dependent on the vision and correlation of both levels. And the constantly changing governments have a restricting effect on the progress and success of policies.

  3. Available financial resources
  4. It must be stated that investments for education over the past decade have not been sufficient. Especially investments in school structure study materials, school materials, and continuing education for teachers, etc. Almost a quarter of a decade later, we are forced to witness the results. The tough catch-up effort before us forces us to realize that much more financial resources are now necessary. The realization that education must have priority is increasing at both governmental and public levels. However there remains a need to clarify the position of education with regard to other social subsystems like for instance, the economy. It becomes apparent that this prioritizing must also be noticed in the available funds. All efforts must be made to make funds available for education.

    An additional fact is the dependent relationship of the Netherlands Antilles. International support is limited due to this dependent relationship. Human resource development and available material have also been affected by this lack of funds.

    With regards to pre-school education: SIFMA does not have any official aid channels. More financial support is expected from the government in order to continue with their courses and programs and also reach their goals. Very creative ways have to be worked with considering the limited funds.

    The area of adult education also has financial difficulties. There is no structure that guarantees the disposal of funds in order to implement the programs. Aid channels are lacking in this area also. Due to the lack of funds it is impossible to carry out information campaigns.

  5. Human resource capacity
  6. Specialized professionals are needed in order to develop and implement the planned innovations. To a certain extent the Netherlands Antilles will continue to depend on external professionals due to its smallness. There is some conflict between this dependency on the one hand and Antillianization on the other hand, like for instance, an education system based on proper needs and values in the area of culture.
    The last couple of years however some change has taken place. Vacancies are filled by Antilleans. However the Department has still not reached its full potential, and it appears that, in the short term, this will remain the case.

    Personnel shortage is a difficulty that also SIFMA has to deal with. They have tried to bridge this problem by building a good network and using cheap labor. This problem can not be solved in the short term due to the lack of funding for employing professionals. However, quality will remain a requirement.

  7. Smallness
  8. The Antilles wants to take its own course with regards to education. A new and proper education system must commence. This means the development of proper educational material and sufficient local knowledge and know-how. The development of new educational methods is an expensive affair due to the small scale of the Antillean market. Considering the terrible financial situation it becomes obvious that development of material could become difficult. There is also a limited capacity for specialized employees and professionals due to the limited market.

    The preceding point does not only result in financial dependency in the area of human resources. Availability and production of good educational material (on a small scale) remains an expensive affair.

  9. Adaptability to Change
  10. The current Antillean educational system is oriented to the Dutch system only with regards to Secondary Education M.A.V.O. (Junior Secondary Education), H.A.V.O., (Senior Secondary Education) and V.W.O. (Pre-university Education). This means that the changes occurring in the Dutch system will also have to be applied here. The goal of the innovations is to provide equal opportunity for all children. This means that one will have to change from a highly selective method to an educational system that complies with local needs. An important aspect of these innovations is that the community should be ready and prepared for the innovations. In the past information and communication appeared to be very influential to readiness to and success of change. The sooner and better the community is informed the sooner and smoother the readiness toward change.

  11. Lack of cooperation and fragmentation
  12. Adult education is characterized by lack of coordination and fragmentation. Various organizations are busy in this area on various levels. They also appear in different forms. There is no relation or structure in the way these organizations function. Result of this ad hoc way of working is that these organizations face the danger that they are all working on the same things. There are a lot of organizations that together are covering a very small part of the adult education area.

    Other factors that have limited the achievement of goals in the area of pre-school education are:

  13. Policy

One of the greatest bottlenecks is that early childhood care does not enjoy enough priority. It should be on the agenda of the policy maker more often meaning that more attention should be paid to early childhood care on the policy making level. The policy’s direction will become clearer. The governmental and non-governmental organizations can then take care of the implementation of the policy.

The island government is not consistent in her policy either. Duty segregation between the various organizations is not always clearly defined. The situation in Curaçao where the duty segregation between Pre-school Education and SIFMA is not yet defined is one example. The island of St. Maarten does not have a clearly defined policy in this area either.

The establishment of SIFMA N.A. on the island of St. Maarten is a way of stimulating the government to formulate a policy that will give direction to developments on the Windward Islands.

It can be noted furthermore that there is little participation of our islands in the developments in the region. This participation will allow us to obtain and exchange experience and knowledge. This will also promote collaboration.

Finally it is also noticed that above mentioned bottlenecks also influence each other. Namely, the financial difficulties affect all other aspects. The smallness also affects development capacity in the sense of available personnel. Another problem is coordination. On various occasions the central government, being the policy maker, picks up this coordination responsibility. All these aspects have resulted in partial or non-accomplishment of the proposed goals.

The financial resources for named bottlenecks can be solved in the intermediate and long term. A clear result of the now limited resources is that we have lagged behind with regards to innovations. With regards to educational capacity, in this sense human resource, it can be said that work is being done on a solution that can be applied to local needs in the long term. The idea is to set up a project in cooperation with the University of Twente for developing the educational potential of Antilleans who can be used for the implementation, guidance, and managing of the various educational innovation activities.

9. Public awareness, political will and national capacities

As mentioned earlier a number of governmental goals have been set with regards to the demand for basic education. Most of these goals are in reference to educational innovations. These innovations are directed, guided, and supported by the Department of Education in cooperation with the actors in the field of education.

It is difficult to calculate the support and demand of the public for all educational innovation processes because all the processes are not yet completed. Additionally, the various innovations happen to be in various phases of implementation and development. Experience has taught us however that a broad bearing surface must always be pursued. In order to achieve this there must be good communication between the actors in order that they are all well informed and therefore also convinced about the need and/or importance of the innovations.

One of the weak points is human resource, namely the lack of sufficient personnel in order to work efficiently. Lack of financial resources forms a second weak point. In contrast a very strong point is that politicians are well aware of the fact that education has to be innovated. The education actors are also convinced of this need. The general public is also informed in order to create a broad bearing surface. For this reason an information campaign was implemented as part of a communication plan under the direction of the Minister of Education.

Pre-school education

The Central and Island governments of Curaçao have made a contribution in the form of financial assistance. The island of Saba has contributed by the establishment of a nursery school. The island of St. Eustatius has also financed a nursery school.

Adult Education

The central government was always fully aware that policy must be formulated with regards to adult education. Due to circumstances this idea could not be implemented. Some activities were developed by the non-governmental organizations. They feel however that government must make policy regarding adult education and that there is a great lack of coordination and organization. The public is beginning to find its way to these types of education. This is the viewpoint of the NGO’s but cannot be substantiated with statistical material

10.General Assessment of the Progress

In summary it can be assumed that there are various on going developments with regards to the six ‘target dimensions’ as defined in the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. Many developments have taken place during the second part of this decade. These developments were mainly with regards to innovations in education. These developments were introduced due to the realization that education must be offered to each citizen. There must be a possibility for everyone to continue to educate him/herself as long as they think it is necessary. This means then that we must have an educational system that is related to the developments in our community, our culture, and our needs. This education must offer the guarantee that the quality of life will improve. Every one must be able to obtain the necessary skills to be able to function in this constantly developing society. Societal capacity must be improved. As a result the ‘basic learning needs’ must be perceived and educational objectives must be formulated on this basis. This should apply to both formal and informal education.

Different goals were set for named ’target dimensions’ as mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Not all goals were achieved. This is due to a number of factors. Some factors that one can not get a grip on easily. Two of these factors will be briefly discussed.

The first factor is with regards to present capacity of professionals. The problems in this area could be solved rather easily. The Antilles has to contend with two problems. First, with regards to education specialties there is a lack of local professionals. The piled up educational innovation projects can be delayed hereby. For this reason we have to use non-local professionals out of sheer need. In this way we miss the opportunity to obtain and build up expertise. Secondly we have the ‘brain drain’ problem. Many students have to pursue their studies in foreign countries, like the Netherlands, the United States, or other countries in the region, due to limited study possibilities in the Antilles. The result is that not all students return at the completion of their study. And for this reason it is difficult to build up a ‘pool’ of professionals. Another already mentioned bottleneck is the financial situation. Just as most countries in the world we also have problems in the financial economic area. Nevertheless we must succeed in maintaining education as a high priority and finance the needed investments that it requires. Per definition education innovation means to invest. It is an investment for the future. Investing now is important for two reasons. As a small country we must become and remain more competent in order to participate in international developments, if we do not want to lag too far behind. A logical result is that each individual Antillean should obtain the opportunity to prepare himself in the required skills of the future society. The right of education must be guaranteed to all.

It can be assumed that various goals have been reached. Various goals have been achieved in the area of early childhood care. Various developments were executed in this area. For instance SIFMA has a bureau in St. Maarten since September 1996. SIFMA is also well known through its media program. A less positive point was the fact that there was not enough decisiveness on the part of governments. There is lack of a policy with regards to the group of 0 – 4 years olds in St. Maarten. Innovation of the whole educational system in the Netherlands Antilles is one of the greatest goals that were set. All those concerned agree. Not all the recently introduced innovations have been completed. They are in different implementation phases. Foundation Based Education is next to be implemented. As mentioned earlier this should be functioning by they year 2001. The island governments must start the preparation process in cooperation with the central government. A very important decision that needs to be taken is the language of instruction that will be used.

Various laws were completed and enforced in the judicial area. These laws are partly related to the educational innovations.

The government has formulated a number of goals in the area of adult education that still have to be implemented. The fact that the central government has employed an employee makes it possible to start concentrating on formulating policy. On this basis the government in cooperation with private initiative can work in a structural manner on the societal goals. The non-governmental organizations have developed these activities. The

Expansion of basic education and training in other essential skills is not defined clearly by the government in specific goals that needs to be achieved. Work was done on it indirectly.

Via the media work is being done on the various area as knowledge, skills, and values which are necessary for better living. These programs are for both adults and youth. From the viewpoint of both education and wellbeing the government has attention for this area.

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