Third Governor’s symposium at the Westin: “Education is the foundation to sustain democratic way of life”

POSTED: 07/2/14 11:12 PM

St. Maarten – Discussions about the best education system, the high level of dropouts, a curricular foreign to the realities of St. Maarten that does not meet the needs of the job market and the language of instruction are the main challenges to St. Maarten’s education system, Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday said in his opening address at the third governor’s symposium – themed Education for Democracy – at the Westin on Monday.

“Let us, given our geo-political reality, use the opportunities before us to direct our education system based on our shared values anchored in common standards of excellence and in so doing guarantee quality education for a stable, safe, fair and democratic society,” the governor said. “In short excellence in our school benches equals excellence in our Parliament benches and thus in the governance of our country.”

“Interest fuels knowledge, knowledge drives freedom, freedom nourishes initiative and initiative feeds development and progress,” Drs. Holiday noted. “The purpose of this year’s symposium on education for democracy therefore is to generate greater interest about developments, ideas and thinking that affect our lives and to fertilize the minds of our people and leaders towards more decisions, policies and actions which dictate best practices required to sustain a stable and democratic society.”

The governor pointed to the significance of literacy as well: “To live by and sustain our democratic convictions we must support them with real and continued action that maintains and strengthens the realization of our ideals for our society. Such real action should be anchored in the understanding that a stable and democratic society is not possible without a certain level of literacy and a common set of shared values among our people. This implies that education, considering the role it plays in literacy and in enhancing the possibilities to communicate shared values, is the foundation to maintain and sustain our democratic way of life.”

The governor furthermore gave an overview of developments in education on the island and about factors that have shaped the current system. A quick scan of the developments in education on Sint Maarten reveals a history of some 163 years of formal education, starting with the establishment of the Oranje School as a public primary school in 1851 followed by the Catholic St. Joseph School in 1890. Since then a lot has transpired institutionally to the point that only last week a new public school, the Drs. Alma Fleming-Rogers Educational Care Centre was officially opened. The opening of that school adds to the array of Public, Catholic, Non Catholic Christian and Private Schools offering primary, secondary and tertiary education.

“Modeled initially after the Dutch education system our school system has been influenced by major reforms in education in the Netherlands, such as by the Dutch Mamoet law of 1968 and the Dutch Foundation Based Education Law of 1993,” Governor Holiday remarked. ”At the same other educational ideas – Caribbean, American and Canadian – have found a place in our education system. It is thus safe to say that our education system is one of diversity.”

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