The following is my a part of my response in an online discussion about St. Eustatius and other islands in the Dutch Caribbean accepting English as the language of instruction.
This was originally penned in on 2014/08/27, but just getting around to editing and releasing it.
Well, first and foremost, its common knowledge that you cant teach someone something that they don’t already know. Mastering one language could increase the chances to learn/master another.
I understand that the major fear is [the Dutch Caribbean students] not being able to make an easy transition when coming to the Netherlands to study. But what if we had to rethink that entire situation?!
Some other bits of info, as far as I know SXM has been trying to get more MBO students to stay in the region, for a couple of reasons, (language, culture, closer to home, students are more likely to come back home, and it may even be cheaper, etc).
In regards to [the Netherlands as a study location], more and more English variants to Dutch studies on HBO and Uni level are being introduced NL, which also makes it easier for students coming here to study [in English] on HBO/Uni level.
Furthermore, in Curacao, depending on where you go, you will find kids with the same level of Dutch as the average bovenwindse islanders. And, some students start much much sooner with learning Dutch; like Kindergarten!
On top of that, the structure of the papiamentu language/dialect is convenient for you to easily learn other languages, (Dutch, Spanish and even a bit of French – at least that was my experience!)
And yet, some of [the students from Curacao] still struggle just like the rest of us [from the SSS islands] to keep up with the level of Dutch in NL! (I was in the class with 5 of them here, plus one from Bonaire).
Lets remember also, that the current situation is not working so great either!
Being bi-lingual is a great idea and something to strive for, but not when it comes at the cost of not giving you a proper command of and mastering at least one language.
Definitely, the caliber of the student is … not what it used to be. lol But again, when you look at that, who is to blame? The school? Teachers? Parents? Government? (All chicken and egg situation if you ask me) But I do believe that the language plays a major role. Especially in terms of providing a point of reference and helping students to make the things they learn in school more relevant to them.
Simple example, when I was in school – not so many years ago – the references in the books were to things and people in NL. That also made it a bit harder for most kids to connect with the material and to understand it.
(Maybe an idea is to then rewrite the Dutch text books with Caribbean references?)
Maybe the situation with the French side is that the French culture, infrastructure, rules etc is more prominent in the French islands/French side.
SXM is much more autonomous and “Americanized” when compared to most of the other islands in the region, including the French-side/St Martin. And of course there are obvious reasons why.
When I speak to my friends from French Side, [I’m left with the impression that] they consider themselves to be more a French citizen than from a St. Martener. As opposed to the average [person from the Dutch-side] who considers themselves to be more St. Maartener than a Dutch citizen.
Dont get me wrong, I do believe in learning more than one language. But practically speaking there will always be that one language in which you express yourself and ‘cuss’ better and easier in! And I believe that that language should be developed to its full potential.
When I look at most of my friends I grew up with, I cant help but wonder about those who didn’t get far in the formal educational system and if the language was part of the reason why.
And I definitely wouln’t be where I am today if I didnt have a person in the bedroom and kitchen table helping me – my mom.
But in this case if we look at the situation from a productivity point of view, the product is getting worse while the process is the same.
So now we have to question the process especially in the light of all the (new) external factors that influence it!
One of the major things I think we, as students on the islands, lack is Comprehension. And I believe that if we could be instructed in our first language (English) then that will help to increase the overall caliber of students.
I do believe the concept merits a test at least! Not saying we go out and burn all Dutch text books tomorrow. lol But at least one school, one class and follow their progress.