IB-program at St. Dominic High prepares students for university

POSTED: 05/18/11 12:13 PM

St. Maarten – Eighteen students entered the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at the St. Dominic High School last August. The 2-year program preps the students for study at the university level abroad. At $1,500 a year, it is a classy alternative to expensive private schools.
“Most students finish high school at a young age, and they are usually looking for a couple of extra years before going to a university. With this program they don’t have to look for another school,” says IM program coordinator Marie Richardson. “We wanted to increase the opportunities for our students.”
School principal José Verschueren-Sommers says that the search for an additional study program started back in 2007. “We looked at Cape, the American advanced Placement Program AP and Cambridge A-level. The last one we looked at was IB. we wanted a program with broad support so we first took it to the teachers, then to the parents, and the school board and lastly to the government.”
The language of instruction for the IB-program, like for all courses at Dominic High, are in English. Universities in the Netherlands currently offer many courses in the English language, so students who want to attend a university in the Netherlands won’t run into any king of language problems. The students that follow the IB-program are eligible for study financing in St. Maarten and in the Netherlands.
The government pays $15,000 a year for students who go to a university in the United States; students going to Holland have their ticket paid, they get service from the student support organization S4 and they receive regular study financing in the Netherlands.
“We have 18 students in the first year of the IB-program,” Richardson says. “Next school year we would like to start with at least 25.”
“Our next wish is to attract children from other schools in St. Maarten,” Verschueren-Sommers adds. “New input is important children can learn a lot from each other.”
The attraction of the IB-program is that it keeps students two years longer on St. Maarten, so they will be older when they venture abroad to live in a student home. “This gives us the time to build up a positive connection with St. Maarten,” Verschueren-Sommers says. “We need these students to build up this country.”
The principal says that Dominic High’s initiative to start the IB-program “is not in the interest of private schools that charge $800 a month. But we believe we have to do this for all children, and to offer this opportunity at a higher education in an affordable way.”
IB-students shared their thoughts with this newspaper yesterday morning about their future plans and about the study they are currently following.
One student, who said she plans to study psychology or physiotherapy, said that there is a big difference between the CXC-program and the IB-program. “In CXC we never wanted to question our teachers, and when we got our first grades in IB it was a big blow,” she said self assured. “I never did any reflection on myself or critically analyzed myself to see how I could improve. But after I did that, In completely changed the way I do things. The IB-program has broadened my way of thinking. I can take on anything, and I will never deny anything as wrong or incorrect.”
Another student, who wants to follow a media training said that she wants to come back to St. Maarten after her studies. “I want to see improvement in local TV-programs. ABVS and channel 15 are not very 21st century. I want to study and make it better. St. Maarten has a lot of talent and they need a platform to show that.”
Not all students know exactly what they want to do after the IB-program. “This study allows me to skip college and go straight to university,” one girl said. “I still don’t know what I want to do. Probably medicine, but not too technical, maybe general practitioner. My first choice is to come back to St. Maarten.”
Coming back or staying away – that’s the question most of the students we talked to answered freely. Out of the seventeen students we asked, five said they wanted to return to the island, seven said they would not and the others are still of two minds about it.
The careers ahead of them are diverse: from human rights activist and actor in Bombay or New York, to TV-program maker, journalist, hotel manager, teacher, lawyer and gynecologist. One student said that he initially wanted to study finance, but that he’d made eventually a totally different choice: a bachelor’s in fine arts and drama.
One girl said that she wants to become a computer analyst, or do something in computer networking. “I don’t want to come back here,” she added.
Another female student wants to become a journalist or a book editor. If her career goes towards the latter option, she won’t come back to St. Maarten either, for lack of publishing houses.
One of the boys in the IB-group will pursue a career as a pilot on commercial airliners, and for that he’ll follow a study in Florida after the completion of the IB-program next year.
Business management is the career choice of one of the girls, who said that she is of two minds about returning to St. Maarten. About the IB-program she was definitely positive. “It is a really good choice. We have to manage our own canteen as a school project. That is a good start up point for what I want to do.”
The management of the school canteen is completely in the hands of students. They have made a business plan, and set up the different departments necessary to run the place, including accounting and human resources.
The IB-group students do more than sticking their noses in books. They also have to complete 150 hours of CAS – an acronym for Creativity, Action and Service. CAS-activities contribute, as one student expressed it, to get a better understanding of the world outside the school.

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