Featuring the Caribbean: Curaçao’s National Development Plan highlights lifelong learning for sustainable development

  • 22 May 2017
© University of Curaçao

Curaçao is a small Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast. Its population was estimated in 2015 to be 157,979, with around 92 per cent (145,000) living in the capital city of Willemstad. In 1997, Willemstad became one of only six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Caribbean, in recognition of its ‘outstanding value and integrity, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries’. Curaçao became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010, and joined UNESCO one year later, in October 2011. English, Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages.

Curaçao has a relatively broad economic base, mainly consisting of tourism, offshore financial services and oil refinery. Despite the slow growth of its GDP during the past decade, Curaçao boasts a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure compared with other countries in the region. As the Curaçao National Development Plan (NDP) 2015–2030 states, the country’s economic development ‘will depend on skilled labor, qualified to take their place in the growing businesses’. This implies a need for reform in the education system, with the government keen to embed a sustainable development perspective in its planning. The aim is to better match educational outcomes with changing labour market needs and to empower citizens through the continuous updating of their skills. To this end, the promotion of lifelong learning, in particular adult learning and education and non-formal and informal learning, will have a key role to play.

The NDP has the long-term objective of making Curaçao a hub of lifelong learning. Such commitment is demonstrated in various aspects. According to the national survey of the third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III), 4 per cent or more of Curaçao’s public education spending goes to adult learning and education. Moreover, Curaçao has a policy framework to recognize, validate and accredit non-formal and informal learning. The country also acknowledges the importance of investing in technical vocational education and training and qualification accreditation, in order to foster a lifelong learning culture for sustainable growth and development for all.

Despite these commitments and the progress made against them to date, there remain a number of barriers to realizing the vision of lifelong learning for sustainable development in Curaçao. One of these concerns the multilingual nature of Curaçao society, which has resulted in a high drop-out rate. Another is the need to strengthen collaboration between the education sector and other sectors in order to ensure that the growing economy offers employment to qualified young adults. Successful implementation of Curaçao’s NDP, and the goals it sets for education, will require deeper cooperation among various stakeholders, as well as supportive government institutions and stable political leadership.


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World Bank. 2016. Curaçao. Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/Curaçao  [Accessed 06 May 2017].

World Bank. 2016. GDP per capita. Available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD [Accessed 06 May 2017].

UN data. 2017. Curaçao. Available at: http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Cura%C3%A7ao [Accessed 06 May 2017].

UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2017. Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao. Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/819 [Accessed 07 May 2017].

Central Intelligence Agency. 2017. The World Factbook: Curaçao. Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cc.html [Accessed 07 May 2017].

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