I write this letter with deep concerns about the state of our country’s education sector, particularly in light of recent revelations about the low percentage of adults who have completed tertiary education. The statistics from the 2022 population census, presented by the Department of Statistics STAT, are alarming. Only 21.2% of adults in St. Maarten have completed tertiary education, while 54% have finished secondary school. This raises questions about the effectiveness of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports, especially considering its substantial allocation in the national budget.
It is disheartening to note that our tax dollars, which contribute significantly to the education budget, are not yielding a satisfactory return on investment. The income distribution further exacerbates this issue, and it begs the question: what is the ministry truly focused on? As citizens, we deserve transparency and accountability, especially given that education is the foundation for the future prosperity of our nation.
Furthermore, the lack of progress in increasing these education statistics falls squarely on the shoulders of the current National Alliance Education Minister and the broader past education policies of the National Alliance political party. The foolishness of neglecting the education sector, despite being the largest part of the budget, is truly baffling. As stakeholders, we must demand better and hold our leaders accountable for our children’s and the country’s future.
A particularly concerning aspect is the 10% of the population that has never been formally educated. This group faces significant challenges in employment, with 56% being employed, 4% unemployed, and 38% economically inactive due to various reasons. The employment distribution among the uneducated is concentrated in construction, wholesale and retail, and the hotel industry. This highlights a fundamental issue with the current state of education and its alignment with the needs of the job market.
To address this crisis, I propose three vital suggestions to the government. Firstly, promote and encourage adults to take evening classes for high school equivalency (GED). Offering scholarships and financial assistance to those in need would ensure accessibility. Secondly, push employers to support employees with the desire to pursue further education, fostering a culture of learning within the workforce. Lastly, increase the budget for a national education literacy campaign, emphasizing the importance of high school, primary, and even college education.
While this statistic serves as a rallying cry for increased college education, the call must be accompanied by a commitment to ensure job opportunities upon graduation. The importance of job security after college cannot be overstated. As we advocate for higher education, efforts must be equally directed toward creating a robust job market that aligns with the skills and qualifications acquired by graduates. A holistic approach that addresses both education and employment will be the key to steering St. Maarten towards a more prosperous and sustainable future.