St Martin voting hopeful takes language policy on election campaign trail
“On the campaign trail, I am presenting new ideas for a national education policy, with emphasis on a St. Martin language policy,” says election candidate Rhoda Arrindell (UP #5).
A 2005 scientific study by Arrindell showed that nearly 65% of the population in the South or Dutch part of the island “want English as the language of instruction in the nation’s schools,” said Arrindell.
“A pilot study of teachers shows the same percentage as the general population,” said Arrindell, who is a linguist and award-winning educator.
Rhoda Arrindell said that she would work with the UP government, school boards, parents, teachers, related stakeholders, to develop a modern language policy and a “sound and competitive education system for St. Martin.”
The language policy would include “Dutch and French as mandatory second-language subjects, starting in the elementary schools, before children pass what is considered the critical age of mastering languages,” said Arrindell.
“This would give St. Martin’s children the possibility to learn Dutch and French in much the same way European children learn English once they had been exposed to it from early on,” said the language expert.
“There is a difference between ‘language of instruction’ and ‘language in instruction or education.’ I am amazed that when I explain this to people they understand,” said Arrindell, “but there are some people, and sadly some are educators, who should know better but get so angry and hostile when I talk about these ideas and plans with students, parents, teachers, and the St. Martin people at large.”
“Over 95% of the world’s experts show that the majority of a country’s children learn best when they are educated in their mother tongue. The mother tongue and historic language of St. Martin is English,” said Arrindell.
“This is the reason why English is also an official language in the territory’s new constitution,” said Arrindell, former language division head of the University of St. Martin. Arrindell is contesting the Friday, September 17 legislative election here.
“I am not favoring one colonial language over another. What we are looking at is the historical reality of English in St. Martin and to the extent that it will make us as a nation and our young people as students, far more successful.”
“Furthermore, it will make our education system more competitive to prepare our people to assume full responsibility in an independent St. Martin. In this regard, it also showed courage and far-sighted leadership and when Theo Heyliger stood up and said in the debate on Sunday that he was proud to have voted for independence,” said Arrindell.
Another feature that Rhoda Arrindell’s language policy proposal would “respect, encourage, and integrate is heritage languages as subjects – just like how geography, social studies, science, music, math, and sports are subjects in the schools.”
“A heritage language gives especially parents the option to have their St. Martin children learn a language that may be part of their parents’ or grandparents’ heritage.”
“In that way, whether at school as an elective or optional subject, from private language institutes, or tutors, a St. Martin child could, and would have the right, to learn Haitian (Creole), Papiamento, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Yoruba, Chinese or Hebrew as their heritage language, or even just because as St. Martiners we love languages. Mind you, this is learning language as a subject, not as the language of instruction,” said Arrindell.
Arrindell is a PhD candidate at the University of Puerto Rico and has just submitted her completed doctoral dissertation. Interestingly, her committee chair is Dr. Mervin Alleyne, one of the world’s leading language and Creole authorities.
“In my new study, I am looking at language and culture in St. Martin and how they impact on identity,” said Arrindell.
“And again, I went to the population in a professional and democratic way, in 2009 and 2010, interviewed a wide cross section, to be able to put in that study and to analyze what the St. Martin people are thinking and doing when it comes to how they identify themselves in this nation of ours,” said Arrindell.
This will be the first such scientific study carried out in St. Martin, and her second major language-related study, said Rhoda Arrindell.
“As far as a national education policy goes, some key signs of that new study can be interpreted to show that English as the language of instruction will serve as a unifying and progressive force for the St. Martin people,” said Arrindell.