Aruba’s education system is one of the best in the Caribbean. The island has a literacy rate of 97% because the school participation rate is very high. Research in 2010 showed that 45% of children 0-3 years attended daycare, and 95.4% of children 4-5 years attended pre-primary school or a school for special education.
Aruba’s education system is modeled on the education system in the Netherlands. It is also funded by the government and is available at all levels, from preschool to university. Education in Aruba public primary and secondary schools is free because the state funds them.
Types of Schools in Aruba
There are other types of schools in Aruba, including:
- Private schools
- Catholic or denominational schools
- International schools
- Special Education schools for students with learning difficulties
Levels of Education in Aruba
1. Primary Education
There are three types of primary education in Aruba, namely:
- Kindergarten or preschool for children aged 4-6 years
- Basic primary education for children aged 6-12 years
- Special education for children in kindergarten and basic primary education for children with learning disabilities or who need special care.
Seven different school boards in Aruba offer primary education. You should explore all of them to see which one aligns with your values and your educational goals for your child.
2. General Secondary Education
After completing primary education, children advance to general secondary education, which has three categories;
- MAVO – A four-year program of basic general secondary education
- HAVO – A five-year program of higher general secondary education
- VWO – A six-year pre-university program
The first category, MAVO, is divided into a two-year basic secondary education program and a two-year senior secondary education program. After the basic program, students choose three subject clusters geared toward their future further education.
HAVO and VWO also start with a two-year basic secondary education program followed by three and four years of senior secondary education and pre-university education for VWO. This adds to five years for the HAVO program and six for VWO.
These programs are differentiated by the level of difficulty. That is why all students in secondary school must start with the basic two-year program. After the basic program, students can decide which senior secondary program best suits their educational goals.
3. Vocational Education
This level of education is divided into two categories;
- EPB – lower vocational education, which takes 3-4 years
- EPI – senior secondary vocational education, which takes 4 years
Generally, the vocational program is divided into three sectors;
The lower-level EPB takes four years. It starts with a two-year basic program and another two years of vocational education. Learners who learn best practically will only take three years because they will be doing technical training most of the time rather than academics.
After this program, a student is ready to join the Aruban labor market but can choose to continue to the senior level, EPI. Senior secondary vocational education is for students ready to start their careers in the labor market. It is also for students who want to go to university to pursue their undergraduate degree.
EPI provides students with different qualification levels. For example, they can graduate with a level 3 (vocational training, self-employed professionals) or level 4 qualification (management training, executive staff, or specialist).
The following units are available for senior secondary vocational studies;
- Technology – a student can take architecture, electrical or mechanical engineering, operational technology, etc.
- Hospitality and tourism – the courses in this unit are taught in English. They include; hospitality management, applied sciences in culinary arts, and more.
- Administration and economics – courses include financial administration, secretarial skills, commercial services, tourism administration, and more.
- Healthcare and health services – courses in this unit include; welfare work, home care, nursing, pharmacist assistant, and many more.
4. Higher Education
There are two public institutions of higher learning in Aruba. They are;
- Aruba Pedagogical Institute (IPA) is a training institute for nursery, primary, and secondary education teachers. The IPA is accredited by the Netherlands Flemish Accreditation Body and is part of the UniCarib partnership. Three universities are in the UniCarib partnership, the University of Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten.
- The University of Aruba has various faculties, namely, Law, Economics and Finance, Hospitality and Tourism Management, International Studies, Arts and Science, and Accounting.
The island also has private universities, but they mainly offer medical courses. A student can study for their bachelor’s or master’s degree in any of the universities in Aruba. Any student with a VWO, HAVO, or MBO diploma qualifies for higher education in Aruba.
Unfortunately, most students travel abroad for further studies mainly because Aruba higher education has limited options. The best part is that diplomas from Aruban schools are compatible with schools in the Netherlands, United States, Netherlands Antilles, Canada, and several other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Since many students travel abroad for higher education, the school participation rate in Aruba decreases. Studies show that 44% of students 18-24 years who graduated secondary school in 2010 furthered their studies, and 41% were employed.
What is the Language of Instruction in Aruban Schools?
Teachers use both Dutch and Papiamentu as the language of instruction in schools. In the past, Dutch was the main language of instruction in schools until recently, when the government decided to incorporate it in schools. Today, teachers use Papiamentu in primary school, and students can learn it as a subject in secondary school.
Students in Lower grades also learn English and Spanish, while upper graders have other options like French and German. Not all schools in Aruba use Dutch and Papiamentu. International schools and some private schools use English as the main language of instruction.
A good example is the International School of Aruba. The school has over 18 nationalities, including students from India and Venezuela. When Aruban students attend university, they can speak at least four languages, mainly Dutch, Papiamentu, English, and Spanish.
According to a 2013 report by UNICEF, Aruba provides free primary and secondary education for all its citizens, including documented immigrants. Aruba’s government invests a lot of money in education. According to data, in 2016, the government spent 21.37% of the budget on education.
Cost of Education in Aruba?
Aruba free education is only for public primary and secondary schools. Private and international schools will cost you money. International schools typically cost more than private schools in Aruba. For example, a half-day program for kindergarteners in Aruba International school will cost you $9,269.
Many expatriates choose private or international schools because of language. It might help to enroll your child for a level year to learn Dutch once you relocate to the island. The other option is to learn Dutch before moving to Aruba.
When Does the School Year Start in Aruba?
Since the education system in Aruba is similar to the Netherlands, it is safe to assume that the school year starts in August or September and ends in June or July. One academic year has two semesters, but students enjoy short holidays within the year during summer, spring, and winter or Christmas holidays.
Like the Netherlands, your child will spend 8 years in primary education and 4, 5, or 6 years in secondary education, depending on the school they choose.