Multilingualism and language policy in education in Surinam and Aruba

Sjaak Kroon, Jeanne Kurvers

Tilburg University, Netherlands, The


Surinam and Aruba are both former Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. Suriname is an independent Republic since 1975 and Aruba, since its secession from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, is an autonomous part within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

In 1667 Dutch became the official language of Surinam and it kept this position also after independence. As a consequence the language of instruction in the Surinamese educational system is Dutch. The position of Dutch in Suriname is recently officially confirmed and strengthened by the fact that Surinam became a member of the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union), a treaty between the Netherlands, Flanders an as of 2003 also Surinam regarding Dutch language and literature and Dutch language education. Apart from Dutch the Republic of Surinam has another twenty languages spoken as home languages by its inhabitants. Among these are Sranan Tongo serving as a lingua franca and some other Creole languages, Sarnami Hindustani, Javanese, Keya and Mandarin Chinese, Lebanese, and a number of American Indian languages. None of these languages, however, has an official position in society and schooling.

Also in Aruba, as a part of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language and the language of education. As of 2003 also Papiamento, a Creole language that consists of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French elements, has been declared an official language of Aruba next to Dutch.

Other than in Surinam, where the issue of using the various home languages of the pupils as languages of instruction is not really a point on the political agenda, in Aruba there is a lively and decades long discussion on introducing Papiamento as a language of instruction in primary education. In 2002 even a policy plan for the introduction of Papiamento was written which is now being partly implemented and at the same time is still waiting for governmental approval.

Although historically and linguistically speaking Surinam and Aruba seem to have a lot in common they show rather different perspectives regarding language policy issues in education.

In our presentation, on the basis of a survey that was conducted with 315 Surinamese respondents in Suriname and the Netherlands and 200 respondents from Aruba we will compare the opinions of Surinamese and Aruban inhabitants regarding the issue of multilingualism, language policy and education, especially focusing on the possibility of using the children’s home languages as languages of instruction.

Session: POSTERS:Focus on language policy, literacy, education, identity
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:00-15:45
room: foyer