The dissatisfying success ratios of Aruban students in the Dutch higher education system made the necessity of a different approach for Aruban students in preparatory education very clear. This is why the University of Aruba, in collaboration with the Aruban Directorate of Education and Ministry of Education and with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences, started the Academic Foundation Year Program. During the initial three editions of the program, the number of registered participants has grown to more than 70 in the 3rd year. In September of this year, the fourth edition of this successful program will start.
Similar programs have been set up in the US and in Europe that offer the opportunity for solid personal and academic growth, rather than taking a gap year. Systematic quality and satisfaction evaluations among students and surveys among alumni allow the university to monitor the quality and effect of the program. The teaching staff consists of a mix of Aruban and international (guest) lecturers that ensure the introduction of the students to teaching and research at institutes for higher education, including universities. Program participants are free to set up part of their curriculum, which allows them to try out the fields of study that they are interested in under the guidance of the teaching team.
Recently the journal Environmental Education Research published a research article on the impact of the didactic concept of the Academic Foundation Year in the module “Introduction to Earth and Environment”. This publication was written by guestlecturers Maarten Eppinga, Tobia de Scisciolo, and program coordinator Eric Mijts. The focus of this research was to establish whether the didactic concept of the program does not only support knowledge acquisition, but also influences motivation and the students' sense of responsibility. The research shows that the approach of the program leads to a significant positive shift in engagement and social responsibility of the students.
The surveys and evaluations demonstrate the tangible impact of participation in the program on the personal and academic growth of the majority of the students. The team of the Academic Foundation Year is ready to support students that are looking for a similar growth process in the coming years as well. More information can be found at http://www.ua.aw/academic-foundation-year/ of via firstname.lastname@example.org