English to be sole language of instruction in St Eustatian schools

English is to become the sole language of instruction in all schools on St Eustatius. This is expected to improve educational attainment, given that English is also the language of everyday life on the island. Sander Dekker, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science informed the House of Representatives and the Senate of this move after today reaching agreement with Reginald Zaandam, Commissioner of Education for St Eustatius. This will end the current policy of giving Dutch and English equal status as languages of instruction in primary education and using Dutch as the sole language of instruction in secondary education.

When St Eustatius became a special municipality of the Netherlands in 2010 after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, the island authorities decided, in consultation with the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, that Dutch would be retained as the language of instruction in order to preserve the status quo as much as possible. However, it emerged from discussions with schools, parents and pupils that teaching in Dutch was not working well. Many children were struggling at school because they were not very competent in Dutch. This resulted in the island authorities and the Ministry jointly commissioning a survey of the effectiveness of the current policy on the language of instruction.

Survey of Dutch as the language of instruction

The survey showed that using Dutch as the language of instruction was detrimental to educational attainment, given that Dutch is hardly used in daily life on St Eustatius and is in effect a foreign language. The survey concluded that pupils would benefit most from a solid grounding in standard English, as that language is closest to their mother tongue -Statian English. State Secretary Dekker and Commissioner Zaandam therefore agreed today that English will be the sole language of instruction in all schools on St Eustatius.

Nederlands as strong foreign language

An important role will be retained for Dutch in future, but as a strong foreign language, as the Statians are very keen for their children to acquire good language skills not only in English, but also in Dutch, with a view to tertiary education in the Netherlands. In addition, pupils wanting to study in the Netherlands or the Leeward Antilles after finishing secondary school will need to follow an intensive course in Dutch.
The recommendations of the feasibility survey will be discussed in the week of 23 June at information meetings with those concerned on St Eustatius.