PHILIPSBURG:--- On January 7, 2021, the Ministries of Education and Culture, of the Four Countries of the Kingdom, namely, Sint Maarten, Aruba, Curacao and the Netherlands, concluded its annual Four Countries Ministerial Conference. For the first time, due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, this conference was held virtually between the Kingdom Partners. The Four Countries used this opportunity to establish mutually beneficial agreements for the advancement of the areas of education and culture. These agreements are based on mutual respect and recognition of the policy decision of the four countries.
Various topics discussed during the meeting included; agreements related to the student success of our pupils while studying in the Netherlands, the equal recognition of Law Degrees issued by the Universities of Aruba and Curacao, the platform for Dutch as a foreign language, enhancement of the teaching training programs, internship exchange in the Dutch Caribbean, securing access to the Digital Kingdom Library, and adhering to the UNESCO criteria to safeguard our intangible heritage.
Study Success of Caribbean Students in the Netherlands
During the meeting, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport of Sint Maarten, drs. Rodolphe Samuel, stressed the importance of the ongoing collaboration between the Four Countries while continuing to take the individual situations of the countries into account. Minister Samuel also highlighted the priority area of ensuring study success of the Caribbean Students studying in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the Minister added that considerations should be given to the possibility of implementing a matching system where a student is linked to a professional or another student currently studying in the same field of interest before committing to the study.
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, Mr. Drs. Ingrid van Engelshoven, indicated that the organization of higher education institutions ‘Vereniging Hogescholen’ offered to work together with the four countries in the Kingdom to further investigate solutions to improve the study success of Caribbean Students studying at their schools.
The agreement between the individual Caribbean Kingdom partners and the Netherlands for the financial COVID-19 support included that an extensive screening of the educational system is required to be conducted by a team of experts from the Four Countries. The respective Caribbean Countries are each working on the plans of approach for conducting this screening.
The respective Ministers of Aruba and Curacao indicated that their draft plans of approach has been finalized and expressed the urgency of commencing the implementation of the plans. Minister Samuel indicated that Sint Maarten only recently came to an agreement and is therefore not that far in the process however expressed that the screening has been prioritized by the Ministry.
Minister Samuel highlighted the fact that Sint Maarten had ratified its “Intangible Cultural Heritage List”. The Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Culture of Aruba, Ms. Xiomara Maduro, noted that culture remained an important tool to retain some sense of normalcy in celebrating traditions during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
Minister van Engelshoven announced that the Netherlands recognizes the injustice that was done by removing cultural heritage artifacts from the former colonies of the Netherlands and that these artifacts will be returned to the respective countries in collaboration with the countries.
The Four Countries of the Kingdom expressed the importance of continued collaboration between the Kingdom Partners and agreed to continue working diligently. The developments and outcome of these agreements will be monitored and evaluated during the next Four Countries Ministerial Conference scheduled for late 2021.