The chairman of the House of Representatives of the States Date March 5, 2021
Concerns Answer to written questions from MPs Diertens and Paternotte
I hereby send you, also on behalf of the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, the answers to the questions
Answers from the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, also on behalf of the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, to the written questions from members Diertens (D66) and Paternotte (D66) to the Minister of Education,
Culture and Science and the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations about the message ‘Ombudsman wants more attention for obstacles to Caribbean students’ with reference 2020Z25286 (submitted December 17, 2020).
Are you familiar with the “Headaches of Caribbean students”  inquiry by the National Ombudsman and the message “Ombudsman wants more attention for obstacles to Caribbean students” ?
Yes, they are known to us. I have also discussed the report with the National Ombudsman. At the invitation of the National Ombudsman, I had an online meeting with ten Caribbean students who took us along in their own experiences as a starting student in the Netherlands. In addition to the various research results, it was useful to also hear those personal experiences and their own ideas about what could be improved in the preparation and supervision of the Caribbean students who decide to study in the Netherlands.
What signs of obstacles for students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom were already known before the publication of the study and what steps did you take?
In 2018, it was reported from Dutch higher education that students with prior education from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom (hereinafter Caribbean students) achieve less good study results in Dutch higher education. Research by my ministry confirmed this picture. I find this worrisome and undesirable, which is why we are working on improvement measures. The Monitor Policy Measures for Higher Education 2018-2019 of Sept 2019 includes a separate chapter on the study performance (intake, switch, dropout rate and bachelor’s rate) of Caribbean students in the Netherlands. As a result of the results, I raised this issue with my fellow ministers from
Education of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. In November 2019, in the Ministerial Four-Country Consultation on Education and Culture, we agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the less good study results of Caribbean students in (Dutch) secondary vocational education and higher education, the causes of this and possible solutions to this, so that measures can be taken jointly. can be taken to ensure that Caribbean students can do better in (Dutch) further education. This investigation has been completed and the draft report was on the agenda of the Ministerial Four-Country Consultation on Education and Culture dd. January 7, 2021. In those consultations, we again agreed that we will work together to ensure that the study success of Caribbean students is improved.
In 2020 I already had intensive consultations with higher education in the Netherlands about the lagging study success of Caribbean students. This has led, among other things, to a proposal from the Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences to form a “steering group” with members of relevant organizations on both sides of the ocean. In the Four-Country Consultation, we and the four education ministers decided to accept this offer from the Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences and to request this “steering group” to draw up an action plan with an integrated approach for the desired better connection: that means elaborating improvement proposals and options, for example of a transition year, with attention to the practical, legal and financial aspects thereof, taking into account the individual
situations of each country. The “steering group” is requested to make use of the points for attention and suggestions that have emerged in the various studies of the past year, such as language deficiencies, choice of study, financial situation,
independence, better information for pupils and parents, the University of Utrecht’s proposal for a Kingdom mobility program, career orientation and career guidance programs (CEG), (digital) distance learning, practical matters such as acquiring a BSN number, matching future students to professionals and students of equal study and other activities to improve the study success of Caribbean students.
(see also answer to question 16)
What is your response to the Ombudsman’s comment that the support for students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is lagging behind the support for other international students?
Most Caribbean students have the Dutch nationality. They are therefore not regarded by the Dutch institutions as international students. As a result, they are not automatically eligible for the support offered to international students. However, every country in the Kingdom offers its own students who go from one of the islands to the Netherlands for further education a counseling program, usually in conjunction with student finance facilities. These counseling packages are not the same for the four countries, are not accessible to all students in all cases and are based on voluntary participation by the student. Moreover, in practice many students choose to make the switch from the Caribbean to the European Netherlands without supervision. Now that various studies have shown that the study results of the Caribbean students in the Netherlands lag behind the comparison groups on average, my conclusion is that additional measures are needed.
Does the right to a study choice check also apply to students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom and if so, what range of study choice activities should they be able to count on?
Yes, these students should be able to count on the same offer as any other student. They do not have to travel to the institution for this. In the event that bridging the distance between place of residence or residence and the place where the study choice activities take place leads to serious objections for a prospective student, the institution will make such arrangements that this prospective student can participate in the study choice activities without his physical presence. is required.
How do study programs prepare students from outside the European Netherlands for (student) life in the European Netherlands and are these information sources or activities also accessible to students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom?
The websites of the study programs and the institutions that provide these study programs provide an overview of almost all information activities that the institution offers and, where appropriate, also mention the student and interest groups that are specifically active for Caribbean students. Many activities are offered online so that students do not have to be physically present in the Netherlands. These activities and information sources are also accessible to students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. There is also a lot on the Nuffic website Studyinholland
(English) information collected about (student) life in the Netherlands. In general, institutions also organize activities for all new students shortly before the start of the academic year to get to know the institution, the city and student life.
Can you indicate how study programs with a limited training capacity give substance in practice to the obligation to take into account the interests of prospective students from the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint
Eustatius and Saba, respectively Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. 
For these prospective students, it is usually not possible from a practical point of view to participate in physical preparation and selection activities for the decentralized selection. The institutions are obliged to take into account prospective students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom in their selection procedures for numerus fixus courses. Although I do not have an exhaustive overview of this, I am aware that institutions often offer the option of conducting orientation and selection interviews online.
Can you indicate to what extent sufficient students from Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Saba can study medicine in the Netherlands, so that the islands do not become dependent on, for example, European
Dutch for providing GP care?
As indicated in the answer to question 2, a study was conducted in 2019 into the study results of Caribbean students in higher education as part of the Monitor for higher education policy measures. An additional analysis (December 2019) shows, among other things, that from 2017 (that is the first year with 100% decentralized selection for fixus courses) less than 10 Caribbean students have started a medical study every year; this cannot be further specified in connection with privacy rules. It is not known how many Caribbean students will eventually pass the medical study, nor how many will return to the islands to work as doctors. As a result of the concerns surrounding the covid-19 pandemic, the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport made agreements with Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten to jointly look at the organization of care (capacity). Partly in connection with the increasing aging of the doctor population on the islands, training capacity also deserves joint attention.
Can you specifically indicate to what extent, since the abolition of the ‘ministerial positions’ for Antillean medical students, more or fewer places have been created for students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom at the medical courses in the European Netherlands?
According to the additional analysis (see question 7) that was carried out in 2019, there has been a decline in the number of Caribbean students starting a medical study since the abolition of the ministerial positions. It is not possible to say specifically how many fewer students are involved, because the number under 10 students is not reported in the analysis due to privacy rules.
Are you considering measures to prevent the Caribbean part of the Kingdom from having too few local doctors and physicians to meet (a large part) of the care needs in due course? If not, why not?
The State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport and I will consider this subject in more detail. To this end, we will explore exactly what the problem is and how we can tackle it. The reintroduction of ministerial positions is also a possibility that we will study. Naturally, we do this in close consultation with the authorities of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.
Can you explain why students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom who study in the Netherlands are exempt from a Dutch healthcare insurance policy and healthcare allowance, and should therefore take out an international healthcare insurance policy?
Pursuant to the 1999 Decree on Expansion and Restriction of the Circle of Insured Persons (BUB), residents from Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten who come to study exclusively in the Netherlands and therefore do not have a (side) job, must take out international health insurance, unless they have health insurance in Curaçao, Aruba or Sint Maarten with which they are also insured in the European Netherlands. On the basis of the BUB, they also cannot make use of the health care allowance. Residents from Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten who come to study in the Netherlands and who also do a paid internship or work in the Netherlands are obliged to take out insurance under the BUB and must take out Dutch health insurance. They can then apply for health care allowance. Residents from Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius who visit exclusively
If they come to study in the Netherlands, they can choose whether they want to remain insured with the BES health insurance or whether they want Dutch health insurance under the BES Healthcare Insurance Decree. If they opt for the latter, they can also apply for health care allowance. Residents from Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius who, in addition to their studies, also have a part-time job or are doing a paid internship in the Netherlands, are obliged to take out Dutch health insurance and can then apply for health care allowance. The ministries of VWS and SZW are exploring the possibility of adjusting the BES Healthcare Insurance Decree and the BUB, so that all residents of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom can make use of Dutch health insurance during their studies in the Netherlands and thus also qualify. for care allowance. You will be informed in more detail about the results of this exploration and the consequences.
What help is available for students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom in finding a suitable home when they come to the European Netherlands to study?
In many cases, the counseling offer referred to under question 3 includes helping to find a suitable student room. However, not all students are eligible for this. As stated in the answer to question 3, in practice many of the students voluntarily choose to switch from the Caribbean to the European Netherlands without supervision.
nd to make. It is estimated that this concerns approximately 50% of the total number of students who move to the European Netherlands. They therefore choose to look for housing themselves and can make use of the regular options available to students in the Netherlands to find housing.
Are the obstacles that students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom experience in repaying the student loan at the Education Executive Agency (DUO) and are there options for drawing up more appropriate repayment schemes so that student loans can be repaid in full and that do justice to the wages on the islands?
Yes. Debtors of DUO can also repay their student debt from the islands according to their ability to pay. Due to the lower wages, the debtors are soon eligible for a reduction in the monthly repayable period or they do not even have to repay if the income is below the set limit. Where the ability to pay information for debtors in the European Netherlands is automatically obtained from the Tax and Customs Administration and as a result they repay according to their ability to pay, Caribbean debtors must submit an application for this and provide the information about their income themselves, as there is no structural automatic exchange of data with the tax authorities on the islands. takes place.
DUO has made agreements with the tax authorities of the Caribbean Netherlands and Curaçao to proactively request income for the years following the first financial capacity request. All debtors for whom this option is not available, this mainly concerns debtors from Aruba and Sint Maarten, receive an annual reminder from DUO after their first ability to pay request to request a new ability to pay and to provide income data. Despite intensive communication about the possibility of repaying according to capacity, relatively little use is made of this option on the islands. If during the specified repayment period has been repaid according to capacity and there is still a remaining debt after that time, it will be canceled.
I have again brought to the attention of the education colleagues of the Countries in the Kingdom that it would help if the tax authorities automatically provide information.
What is the state of affairs in discussions with the authorities of the BES islands about the issue of citizen service numbers (BSN) to Dutch nationals living in the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba?
Consultations have been taking place for some time between the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the
Executive Councils and the Civil Affairs departments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba about the problems identified by the National Ombudsman with obtaining the BSN for residents of the Caribbean Netherlands. Among other things, this consultation resulted in a new version of the information sheet for Caribbean students, which was published on September 23, 2020, in which attention is also paid to this problem. See also the answer to question 14.
Can you indicate when you expect these residents of the Netherlands to receive a BSN as standard?
In his letter of 21 December 2020, the State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations states that the findings from previous studies into the introduction of the BSN are currently being elaborated in more detail in consultation with the Executive Councils and National Services. In order to introduce the Citizen Service Number (BSN) to replace the current ID Number, which is in use in the Caribbean Netherlands, various laws need to be amended, including the General Provisions Citizen Service Number Act, the BRP Act, the Personal Data Protection Act BES and the Act identity cards BES are the most important. After such a bill is brought into effect, its entry into force depends on the legal process to be followed.
Are you prepared, in accordance with the recommendation of the National Ombudsman, to investigate how students from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom can be provided with a BSN before arriving in the Netherlands? If not, why not?
Yes, the government is willing to investigate this, as the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations indicated earlier in response to questions from the members of the CDA faction in the Memorandum in response to the report on the amendment of the BRP Act and the Basic Administrations Personal Data BES Act. (Parliamentary document 35648, no. 6).
What is your reaction to the Ombudsman’s recommendations and how will they take up the recommendations?
I pointed out the Ombudsman’s report to my fellow education ministers in the Kingdom. In the field of study connection problems of
Caribbean students were conducted two more studies in 2020. End
2019 I have together with the education ministers of Aruba, Curaçaoand Sint Maarten to conduct an investigation into all
connection problems of all Caribbean students. That research was also carried out in 2020. Finally, the Association of Living Languages, Papiamento section, conducted a study in 2020 into the connection problems of students specifically from the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao).
Recently, the four ministers of education in the Kingdom held consultations in the Ministerial Four-Country Consultation on Education and Culture about the various connecting bottlenecks. You will shortly receive a letter from me with, among other things, a response to the above-mentioned reports and the bottlenecks identified therein for Caribbean students.
The State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will initially focus on the introduction of the BSN in the Caribbean Netherlands and is investigating whether and in what way students from Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten can also be provided with a BSN before they start their studies in the Netherlands (see also the answers to questions 13, 14 and 15).
The ministries of VWS and SZW are exploring the possibility of adjusting the BES Healthcare Insurance Decree and the BUB, so that all residents of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom can make use of Dutch health insurance during their studies in the Netherlands and thus also qualify. for care allowance. (see also answer to question 10).
 National Ombudsman website, ‘2020/042 Headaches of Caribbean students’, December 16, 2020, https://www.nationaleombudsman.nl/nieuws/rapporten/2020042
 NOS website, ‘Ombudsman wants more attention for obstacles to Caribbean students’, 16 December 2020, https://nos.nl/artikel/2360854-ombudsman-wilmeer-aandacht-voor-obstakels-caribische-studenten.html
 See Article 7.53, paragraph 3 of the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act