New collaboration: strengthening teacher competence in multilingualism and diversity in Suriname

Surinaamse school - Wikimedia Commons/TCAM

Classroom in Suriname – Wikimedia Commons/TCAM

Suriname is characterised by great ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. In a population of less than 500,000 people, more than 20 languages are spoken. The Sranan language is the closest to a lingua franca. Most children speak Dutch as a second or foreign language. Yet only Dutch is officially recognized, in this former colony of the Netherlands. It is the instruction language at school and all schoolbooks are available in Dutch only.

The challenge of learning in a foreign language is especially acute in the interior of the country. The low educational success of indigenous and maroon children is heavily influenced by the language barrier and a curriculum that is not adapted to the local context. The Rutu Foundation is partnering with Utrecht University and the Christelijk Pedagogisch Instituut (CPI – Teacher Training Institute Suriname) in a project to tackle this issue.

A new partnership

Following the success of the training programme developed by the Rutu Foundation to strengthen the intercultural competence of teachers working in the interior, this upcoming project will integrate the training programme into the new curriculum of the teacher training institutes.

All future teachers will be equipped to adapt their teaching to the languages and cultural background of their students, increasing the chances of educational success. The teachers of the institute will design a module themselves, in line with the new trajectories (‘leerlijnen’) of the Ministry of Education on multilingualism and cultural diversity.

The partnership between the CPI, Utrecht University and the Rutu Foundation will create unique opportunities to exchange knowledge and experience about multilingualism and cultural diversity in the classroom between Suriname and the Netherlands, including the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom.

The Twinning Facility, a fund which supports partnerships between Dutch and Surinamese organisations, will finance the project entitled “Dealing with diversity in primary education: strengthening the expertise of teacher training institutes in Suriname”.

For the Rutu Foundation, dr. Ellen-Rose Kambel, Ralph Schreinemachers (senior trainer) and Maggie Schmeitz (co-ordinator) will participate in the project. For the University of Utrecht, dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon and dr. Ellen-Petra Kester will share their expertise.