DH | Dutch Minister and USM discuss range of issues

Dutch Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (left) during her meeting with USM officials.

POND ISLAND–Credit transfers from University of St. Martin (USM) to Dutch institutions, help for St. Maarteners furthering their studies in the Netherlands, and the need for more teachers of the Dutch language in USM teacher training programmes were amongst the issues discussed when Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science OCW Ingrid van Engelshoven visited USM on Tuesday.

She was accompanied by a delegation of ministerial functionaries and local government representatives.

Van Engelshoven met with USM administration, students and faculty as part of her tour in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom and in preparation for a Kingdom-wide conference on the status of primary, secondary and higher education scheduled to be held in Willemstad, Curaçao, this Friday.

USM President Antonio Carmona Báez briefed the Dutch Minister on tertiary and higher education in St. Maarten, demographics and student population, and the current hybrid system of accreditation of the university’s degree programmes in education, business and hospitality.

“Sometimes it is difficult for our counterparts in the Netherlands to understand how education is set up in the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom, but it just takes a little openmindedness and a good sense of history. It looks like Engelshoven was ready to learn,” Carmona said. “We need accreditation equality within the Kingdom and more collaboration between the Dutch Ministry and local institutions in research.”

Van Engelshoven, who is a member of the centre-liberal D66 party, is a champion of diversity and gender issues, and is known to call for a dialogue on the Dutch concept of emancipation.

Carmona said during their dialogue, “Over 85 per cent of our students are women, most are full-time workers while also studying full time, they are either Afro-Caribbean or Asian-Caribbean, some of them mothers, many come from low-income families and struggling to make ends meet. Yes, emancipation means something very different here than in Holland.”

Van Engelshoven admitted that gender representation was “also a serious problem” in Dutch academia and has “a long way to go.”

Ten students representing Pre-USM, General Education Diploma (GED) and Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programmes also met with the Dutch delegation and spent close to an hour in detailed conversation with Van Engelshoven.

Also present at the meeting at USM were Education Minister Wycliffe Smith, the Ministry’s Secretary-General Shermina Powell-Richardson and Department of Education head Sidonia-Lacorbiniere.

Bron: Daily Herald

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