The quality of Education on Saba has during already a long time the subject of many discussions among the population and is also receiving the attention of the Dutch government. The RCN organized on Monday, October 25 a radio interview with Mr. Gerard Maas, Project Director Caribbean Netherlands and Mrs Chiara Wooning, Coordinating Policy Advisor, both of the Min. of Education.
The presenter stated that objective of the RCN with this radio interview was to use 50% of the time available for exposing the work and plans of the two officials and the other 50% was for the Saba population to call in with questions.
The event started at 3 pm but the RCN only announced it by email 4 hours before the event. Moreover the flyer they send around carried a wrong telephone number for those who wanted to call in. It shows again the quality of the RCN staff. One can smile…. but it is Saban tax money that is absorbed by them!!!! When do they get value for their tax money???
Unfortunately they are in the same boat as their fellow citizens in the European Netherlands. This was well proven through the interview. The quality of the staff at the Min. of Education is very similar to that of the RCN. What is the case?
The basis for the development trajectory of the Min. of Education is based on the Education Agenda that has been signed in March 2011 by the ministry and the professionals working in education on the islands. I tried to read the Education Agenda on the English RCN site….. and it is only available in Dutch (note: we are now 7 months after signature and this document is the master plan!). As it seems only to be available in Dutch I wonder if all our representatives have understood what they signed up to.
Anyway, I needed help to get the text translated.
The Education Agenda lists the key objectives , such as: “The education system has the objective to give the students the possibility to obtain diploma’s that equivalent to those that can be obtained in the European Netherlands.”
The Agenda recognizes that, due to the differences in background, culture, mother tongue, etc. the schools cannot be organized in a similar way as the schools in the European Netherlands. This requires EXTRA EFFORT from school boards, teachers and parents.
Every student counts! The Agenda states that each student in the Caribbean Netherlands has the rights to the same quality education as the students in the European Netherlands.
Etc. etc. etc….. the normal high level bla bla bla…… but it IS the official master plan, co-signed by the Ministry of Education so everyone needs to take this seriously.
Probably thanks to fact that, during the transmission, the presenter mentioned the correct telephone number to call in, there was an interesting question.
The Education Agenda recognizes that the education process is much more complicated on Saba than in the European Netherlands. This is confirmed by the fact that significant backlogs have been identified in language and math progress both on the primary and comprehensive schools. Note: THIS IS THE KERNEL OF SCHOOL EDUCATION, not some subject on the side! Looking at the challenge from a professional project management perspective, I conclude that, for the objectives in the Education Agenda to be realistic, the educational challenges on Saba are significantly greater than those in schools in the European Netherlands, certainly in the coming years.
From my own experience I know that the cost of living on Saba is, for me, significantly higher, than what I have experienced in the European Netherlands. However, Mr. Maas stated literally, that it had never come to his mind, that, if you have a need for teachers that have additional competences than those in the European Netherlands one needs at least to offer them the same financial compensation as in the European Netherlands, certainly if you post these teachers and support staff in a region where the cost of living is higher and, in addition, where their social benefits are lower as well. I believe Mr. Maas needs some basic project management education urgently.
Mrs. Wooning demonstrated a more or less similar level of professionalism. She is working towards the organization of a second Education Conference for the islands. When asked by the interviewer about the success of the first one, she stated that this one was a great success because the Education Agenda was signed (where quite a number of participants probably did not understand in every detail to what they signed up to) and that the participants enjoyed it a lot. (Now THAT is a surprise: a nice trip to Bonaire, all costs paid!!!). So they are looking forward to the next Conference (I hope they invite the parents as well, paid by RCN, of course). When the interviewer asked who would be paying for the second conference, Mrs. Wooning stated that money is not an issue as the Min. of Education had already reserved a budget for that (do the European Netherlands tax payers realize where their money goes?).
So, in conclusion, there is plenty of money for conferences, but there is not enough budget for teacher salaries to get the staff into the schools to achieve the objectives of the Education Agenda, drafted and co-signed by the Min. of Education.
But let’s be positive and look for a solution. Christian organizations send religious people to third world countries to help with education and, on the side, bring Christianity. They pay these efforts from gifts they receive in their mother countries. Could Saba not invite one of these organizations to start a school on Saba? Imagine how we well we could achieve improvement in the quality of education if it was given for free by highly motivated and qualified individuals? It may be more effective to contact Rome than The Hague.
a frequent visitor to Saba and concerned about the future of the Island (12)