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Netherlands Antilles

Official Country Name: Netherlands Antilles
Region: Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Population: 210,134
Language(s): Dutch, Papiamento, English, Spanish
Literacy Rate: 98%

The Netherlands Antilles consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea. The first group of islands is Curacao and Bonaire, and the second group of islands are St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba. The island of St. Maarten is shared with France. The land area is approximately 960 sq. km. with a coastline of more than 364 km. (World Factbook 2000). The 210,000 people of the islands are approximately 85 percent Creoles of mixed African, Dutch, and Spanish descent.

The major industry of Netherlands Antilles is tourism, followed by petroleum transshipment and offshore banking.The Netherlands Antilles is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but in 1954 they were granted autonomy in their internal self-government. The islands are a parliamentary democracy consisting of the executive branch that includes a queen, a prime minister, and a cabinet. The legislative branch consists of 22 seats with members elected by popular vote for four-year terms. The Joint High Court of Justice comprises the judicial branch of their government (World Factbook 2000).

The basic structure of the school system consists of primary school for ages 4 to 12, secondary for ages 12 to 16, or pre-university studies for ages 12 to 18 (IAU 1995-1996). The secondary track is further broken down into either a general secondary stream or a technical and vocational stream. About 38 percent of the population have graduated from the secondary level, and another 32 percent have finished their primary schooling; this has produced a population with a literacy rate of about 94 percent.

There is only one university in the Netherlands Antilles. The Universiteit van de Nederlandse Antilles provides higher education degrees in the study of law, social sciences and economics, and engineering including architecture, civil, mechanical and electrical.

Primary school teachers are trained at a teacher training college in Curacao. The training consists of two years of theoretical and practical work and one year of practice in the educational system.

Currently there are educational reforms underway in the Netherlands Antilles that were started in 2000. The main features of the reforms are:

  1. grouping the students into three main age groups: 4-8, 8-12, and 12-15
  2. integration of kindergarten and primary education
  3. incorporating in the first two years of secondary education foundation-based education
  4. development of a system of education that is more in tune with the technological developments and educational theories from the Netherlands and around the world

(International Bureau of Education).


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

International Association of Universities (IAU). "Education System-Netherlands Antilles," 1996. Available from

International Bureau of Education. "Analysis of questionnaire, Caribbean Survey," 2001. Available from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/Regional/CaribbeanSurvey/caribbee.htm.

Netherlands Antilles-Altapedia Online, 2000. Available from http://www.altapedia.com/online/countries/neth anti.htm.

—Deanna Edens

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