Philipsburg: All Group 8 (6th grade) students in public and subsidized schools received their certificates for Dutch as a Foreign Language Assessment at the closing of the school year. The assessment was a pilot project commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport as part of the Taalunie agreement signed by the honourable Minister Wycliffe Smith and that organization. The results of the pilot will be evaluated by Division of Examinations and the Minister will be presented with a plan of action.
The objective of the Taalunie agreement is for Taalunie to provide assistance to all Ministries of Education within the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the aim of improving the level of Dutch Language. Taalunie, a policy organization for Dutch language in the Netherlands and Flanders, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport on Sint Maarten, the school boards and their schools all worked together to facilitate these assessments. The assessment was just one of the activities that is part of the whole package.
The Group 8 students in the primary schools sat the assessments for Dutch as a Foreign Language in May-June 2019, and received a certificate indicating their levels for the (4) areas of the assessment. The four areas are Listening, Speaking, Reading and Comprehension (writing). The assessment is especially for foreign language learners, which meets the needs of most of Sint Maarten’s students because they do not have Dutch as their first language. This assessment is based on what the students are capable of instead of what they have not mastered. Therefore, the assessment works with ‘can-do statements’ and a student cannot fail.
The certificate indicates the student’s level per skill in learning the language through listening, speaking, reading and comprehension (writing). This is based on the framework for learning a foreign language, the Common European Framework of References (CEFR). The six levels of competence within the CEFR range from A1 (Beginners) to C2 (Proficiency). The standard level for foreign language learners at the end of primary education is ending A1 to beginning A2. The results of the assessments on Sint Maarten varied from A1 to B1.
The indicators of the overall competency level are to be interpreted as follows:
A1: Beginner – the student understands and uses very basic expressions to satisfy concrete needs.
A2: Elementary – the student understands and uses frequently used expressions in most intermediate areas.
B1: Intermediate – the student understands main points in familiar matters. The student can create simple texts on topics of personal interest and can describe experiences, events, dreams and ambition, as well as opinions or plans in brief.
Minister Smith stated, “The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, in particular, the Division for Educational Innovation takes this opportunity to thank all parties involved with a special thanks to the Dutch Language instructors in the primary schools, who followed the trainings provided, and their students who made this assessment possible. The results attained will be used to provide input to further improve and enhance the development of students’ performance for the Dutch Language.”
According to the Head of the Division for Educational Innovation, Oralie Boirard, “The pilot project was communicated to all school boards as well as the school managers prior to the accessors training. Schools managers were asked to share this information with their staff, namely the Dutch language instructors at the English schools and class teachers at the Dutch schools. The dates for the testing were coordinated with DEI team based on correspondence from the school boards. All stakeholders were involved in the process and we are grateful for their participation.”
All accessors were provided the opportunity to evaluate the whole project via an online link for the evaluation. The Ministry will organize an evaluation meeting at the beginning of the new school year to ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to share their experiences.