Minister Dijkgraaf on a knowledge mission to Aruba and Curaçao

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, will be in Aruba and Curaçao from April 8 to 12 to lead a knowledge mission. Together with educational institutions, Dijkgraaf wants to strengthen cooperation in the field of education and research between the Netherlands, the countries in the Kingdom and the Caribbean Netherlands. Greater awareness of the impact of the history of slavery is also central.

Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf


“I look forward to deepening and expanding cooperation in the fields of education and science. Intensive cooperation with the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, with which we have deep, historical ties, is essential. Fortunately, there is a lot of momentum in our relationship in the field of education. We have been able to make good progress in recent years, with great initiatives such as the Kingdom Fair. It is now important to perpetuate that. It is important to also pay attention to the history of slavery. This has an effect on society as a whole. The commemoration year creates more awareness of this.”

Better connections to the labor market

The knowledge mission consists of administrators from ten vocational institutions, colleges and universities and representatives from NWO, KNAW and De Jonge Akademie. Dijkgraaf first visits Aruba with them. The focus here is on connecting education to the labor market: the current situation, but especially how the educational offering can better meet the needs of the labor market.

In Aruba, experts are also discussing lifelong learning and further training. Which forms of education could you use for this? All sectors in the range (MBO, HBO, WO) are involved in this.

Finally, student mobility is discussed: students who used the new Kingdom grants in the first round share their experiences. From the coming academic year, around 120 students per year can go on an exchange or internship within the Kingdom with this grant, intended to increase the short-term exchange of students. This academic year, a total of around 25 students are already using it.

Effect of slavery past

The history of slavery still leaves its mark when it comes to education and research. Many Caribbean students are lagging behind, something that becomes apparent in the difficult transition to study in the Netherlands. Led by the Caribbean universities, a theme session will focus on the impact of the slavery past. The aim is to ensure more understanding and knowledge about the history of slavery.

Declaration of intent on cooperation between institutions

In Curaçao, educational institutions from the Netherlands and the islands are working on a declaration of intent. Together they want to explore what collaborations are possible within the Kingdom. This exploration should lead to further agreements.

It is not just about education, research and science are also on the agenda in Curaçao. KNAW, NWO, De Jonge Akademie and researchers from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom are collecting input for a knowledge agenda in order to promote research opportunities on current social themes on the Caribbean islands. 

There is discussion about intensifying research cooperation with the Caribbean  part of the Kingdom, and possible financing for this. During the session, attention will be paid to the barriers that postdocs, master's students and PhD students experience, for example in access to research financing.

NWO is currently working on the possibility of short-term, curiosity-driven projects. The experiences of young Caribbean researchers are also discussed. They help think about how they can be better supported. NWO will develop financing options for PhD research for this group of young researchers within the 'Caribbean Research' programme.

Increase study success

The knowledge mission will be concluded at the SEA (Strategic Education Alliance) working conference. This platform of the four countries of the Kingdom aims to increase the study success and equality of opportunity of Caribbean students. During the conference, students from the Caribbean will speak and discuss, among other things, how secondary education on the islands can better connect with further education.

The knowledge mission to the Caribbean is the third after previous missions to Indonesia and South Africa. These visits have strengthened bilateral cooperation with the countries concerned and between educational and knowledge institutions.