The United Nations in Suriname, led by UNICEF, works to reduce inequity in the education system.
In Suriname, 97 percent of the children are
enrolled in primary education, but serious disparities exist between the coastal and rural schools and the interior.
While Suriname is nationally on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 2, there are significant geographical gender and socio – economic disparities, with particular concern for children, boys and girls, in the interior where progress is significantly below target.
Numerous reasons have been identified for the fact that some children achieve well in the education system and others do not, and why the disparities become increasingly evident as children progress through school. Availability of schooling opportunities, accessibility of schools, quality and appropriateness of the education system affect the learners’ results in the highly varying education context in Suriname. Whereas the national gross primary school enrolment rates are high, enrolment and attendance rates in the interior are generally low in comparison to the national average. Poor availability and quality of pre-schools and the sudden switch from local languages to Dutch, being the medium of instruction and texts books, could be identified as one of the main hurdles, resulting in high repetition rates in first grade and poor net completion rates in the interior.
The situation regarding water and sanitation for school youth is very challenging also, as stated in the school-mapping published by the Ministry of Education and Community Development, UNICEF and the Flemish Development Fund for Education in 2010. Only 29.4 percent of schools in the rural coastal areas have piped water, while 67.5 percent of the other schools in the rural coastal and rural interior do not have piped water and either collect rainwater or river water during school hours.
Within this context, UNICEF initiatives will target the reduction of inequities in the education system especially among Indigenous and Maroon communities with an emphasis on those living in the coastal and the interior regions of Suriname.
Child friendly schools: Quality education disparities are exacerbated by the difficulty to find qualified teachers for schools in the interior. Thirty percent of the teachers in the interior are not qualified to teach, and in public primary schools 5 percent have not completed primary education themselves.
As outlined in the UNDAF Action Plan 2012-2016, UNICEF will continue supporting the Ministry of Education and Community Development strengthening the capacity of kindergarten and primary school teachers through coaching and guidance towards promoting Child Friendly Schools in the interior.
Computer aided learning: To further increase the skills and capacities of teachers as well as children’s performance, UNICEF, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Community Development, implements the Computer Aided Learning Project. This two year pilot initiative will introduce computer aided learning in five “pilot” schools in the interior of Suriname. The project will allow teachers to include interactive practices in their lessons and increase children’s performance and joy in learning. Besides the direct results in the classrooms and schools, the project is designed to give input for the ICT4 Education Strategy Development supporting a potential expansion of the programme to all the schools in the interior.
Evidence-based education policies: The development of evidence based policies at national level is crucial to improve the Surinamese education system. Through UNICEF’s support to the School Mapping Survey and Education Management Information System of the Ministry of Education and Community Development, regular disaggregated data on the quality and performance in education will be collected, facilitating the identification of gaps in the system.