Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Charter for the Kingdom of The Netherlands grants autonomy to Aruba to develop its own internal laws in accordance with Kingdom rules and regulations. However, international treaties and conventions are signed by the Netherlands on behalf of the island.
According to the Department of Education of Aruba, in addition to mainstream primary education, special education is also available. Special education at the primary level is divided into provision for children with mild learning difficulties, children with severe learning difficulties and children with hearing impairments (including deaf children). A 2002 national ordinance on primary and special education governs special education for children aged 6 to 12. At the secondary level, the island has a public school for special secondary education.
In terms of gender equality in education, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there is nearly parity between males and females in the gross enrolment ratio in primary and secondary education. However, females are two times more likely to attend higher education than men. In 2016, for example, the gross enrolment ratio of females in tertiary education was 20.7%, while the gross enrolment ratio of males was only 10.67%.
According to UNICEF’s 2013 report The Situation of Children and Adolescents in Aruba, the country provides free primary and secondary education for everyone, including documented migrants. An estimated 97% of the population 15 years and older is literate. In addition, the country has advanced towards the elimination of gender gaps in education, although enrolment rates in both high school and college are higher for women than for men.
Aruba has two official languages, Papiamento and Dutch. English and Spanish are also widely spoken. The government attempted to develop a curriculum in the early 2010s to introduce Papiamento into teaching. According to UNICEF, while only 6% of the population speaks Dutch at home, the Dutch education model prevails. With 68% of the population speaking Papiamento, there is a need for the education system to adapt to local needs. In addition, 14% of the population speaks Spanish and 7% speaks English. The PRISMA project seeks to help non-Dutch-speaking students to familiarize themselves with the Dutch language.
Aruba’s development has been strongly influenced by a long history of migration and immigration. According to UNICEF’s 2013 situation analysis, the 2010 Population and Housing Census indicated that 34% of the population was foreign born. In the context of the Venezuelan crisis, Aruba has received a significant influx of migrants and refugees. The Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V) reports that 17,000 migrants and refugees from Venezuela have arrived in Aruba. The R4V’s March 2020 situation report for Aruba and Curaçao estimated that by the end of 2020, 44,500 refugees and migrants would have arrived in Aruba and Curaçao. The International Organization for Migration and UNCHR are the two key organizations providing support to Venezuelans in accessing education services on the island.
The Ministry of Education of Aruba works to strengthen education across the island. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Social Affairs and Culture included among its 2009–13 priorities the development of children and adolescents, disadvantaged populations and persons with special needs. Aruba has a very high expenditure on education. In 2016, the government expenditure on education as a percentage of the total government expenditure was 21.37%, according to UIS data.
According to UNICEF, an insufficient number of teachers and schools and insufficient financial assistance represent obstacles for special needs education in Aruba.
The 3030 national education policy Aruba (PEN 30), presented in 2019, provides the strategic vision for education in Aruba. The PEN 2030 seeks to ensure equal access to quality education and to promote lifelong learning for everyone. It focuses on the development of individual learning needs, taking into account the multilingual context of Aruba and the alignment of the policy at the national level with international developments in education.