Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Eckman, Ellen

Third Advisor

Pavlik, Robert


The goal of this interpretive study was to detail the emic perspectives of three Rectors Magnificus on the educational issues on the island of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. The thinking of the Rectors about educational reform and their perceptions of the factors that both enhance and limit reform efforts were explored. The NVivo for Qualitative Research software and the Constant Comparative method of data analysis were used to code, analyze, and refine the data. Three major perspectives emerged from the findings. The first theme detailed "Tracking as the key to gaining access to higher learning". Based on this analysis, the concept of categorical thinking was used to describe the educational system that uses tracking as the primary source for organizing education. The second theme detailed "Teacher education reform as the key to educational change". Rectors explained the native language issue, their concern about expanded opportunity, and the limited authority of the Rector Magnificus and the local University in the field of education, as major sources of conflicts. I affirmed, from their perspectives, that the impact of categorical thinking dominated proposals to reform. The third theme detailed "The politics of protecting self-interest" as representing the core of the conflicts. Based on this analysis, it became clear that the power of categorical thinking makes the goals for improving individual opportunities and those for improving inequality very difficult to realize. Recommendations for improving education include acknowledging the fact that categorical thinking has controlled both the current organization and practice of education and its reform. The analysis of the literature on educational reforms in educational systems around the world also supports the power of categorical thinking in the conceptualization and implementation of educational reforms. I close by suggesting much needed reforms in: (a) the role assumed by the local University in leading educational reform, (b) the expansion of teacher education on the island, and (c) the creation of a research center that focuses on connecting the expertise at the University with the community.



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?