Van Putten tables education “white paper” today

POSTED: 03/25/11 12:05 PM

KRALENDIJK/BONAIRE – The Commissioner of Education for St. Eustatius Clyde van Putten is heading a high powered delegation to the education summit for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) with the Minister of Education of the Netherlands Marja van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenhart. Former Commissioner of Education Roy Hooker and coalition partner Reginald Zaandam are included in the delegation for the meeting in Bonaire. The summit will conclude with the signing of a protocol.

The agenda for today’s meeting includes the infrastructure of the schools of the BES islands, the financial aspects of education and changes that are expected over the next five years. Van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenhart’s expectation is that education in the islands will be on par with the Netherlands within five years. However there are still financial the aspects that has to be addressed.

“Education is now the responsibility of the Dutch government and we play a limited role, with regard to the infrastructure and transportation. While it is not the intention to reinvent the wheel, the new government has submitted a letter on behalf of the Island Territory that we have a new approach and pointed out to Holland that there is a new way of thinking,” van Putten said.

The commissioner said he’s also informed van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenhart in a recent bi-lateral that it is unrealistic to maintain the same finances as was promised in 2009. He’s requested her to revisit the policy and remove a perceived deficit with regard to the BES islands.

“In the past the local governments were unable to do much because it was financially impossible to have more done,” van Putten said.

A “white paper” compiled at a recent island summit with education stakeholders will be tabled as the position of St. Eustatius during today’s summit. The document includes new programs, new ideas, the schools on the island, the language of instruction and the role of the government. The latter point is core issue because the government feels that schools boards were given more authority than government when the constitutional structure changed. The government of St. Eustatius does not agree with this decision since they are politically responsible for education.

“When it goes right it is alright but when it goes wrong then us as government is responsible. We are saying that there should be consultation. When we signed the agreements prior to the constitutional change for the new status it was agreed that everything would be in place for the different islands and there would be consultations with the islands. Too often we are confronted with limited information and the technocrats in Holland make the decision for the island and we want to avoid this at all cost. Who could determine the situation on the island better than us?  We are in the house and know where it leaks,” Van Putten said.

He added, “Even though the input by Holland is more than welcome since they have all of the expertise we must be included in the decision process in the field of Education.”

Van Putten called his first meeting with van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenhart “very positive” and he sees her as a very practical person. This allowed them to establish clear lines of communication and it was decided that they will continue with the communications between their two offices.

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