Ambassador Van Kesteren: 1170 Bulgarians study in Holland

15 октомври, 2010 08:00 | English | Няма коментари

Ambassador Van Kesteren: 1170 Bulgarians study in Holland

Karel van Kesteren is the ambassador of the Netherlands to Bulgaria. He joined the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974. Van Kesteren held various posts in the United Nations Department of the Ministry, attending numerous UN meetings.

In 1984 he has been consecutively Deputy Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in Colombia, Head of Section at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague , Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in Nicaragua, Deputy Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in Spain, Director of the United Nations and International Financial Institutions Department in the Ministry in The Hague. He was also a Dutch ambassador to Tanzania with three countries of co-accreditation, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Comoros.

– Your Excellency, how do you evaluate the 15 years of existence of the “MATRA” program?

– MATRA is very useful program, helping Bulgaria to transform its society and institutions and prepare for successful EU membership. But now it comes to an end. That is why, in November we are organizing a conference to evaluate those 15 years and to look at what has been achieved. There were a lot of programs in all kinds of areas – environment, transport, child care. In the last couple of years the focus was very much on inclusion of vulnerable groups of society, particularly children in institutions and roma. And on the other hand, we are helping in the area of justice and home affairs.

– Tell us more about the educational system in Holland.

– All children go to kinder garden and preschool. The Primary education lasts 8 years. During the last year the pupils are advised on their Secondary education which, depending on the program, might take between 4 and 6 years. The Higher education institutions are two main types – research universities and universities of applied sciences. But there is also an interchange. After a couple of years you can change the stream of education and go to a more suitable one, focus on research and so on. Education is very flexible in order to help you find a better position.

A few days ago I read an article that the Netherlands has the lowest percentages of people that are not in school and do not have work. Practically, everyone is either at school or they have a job. That’s positive.

– How does a parent make the choice between sending his/her child in a public or in a private school?

– The public system is very good. There is no reason for a parent to take its child to a private institution. There are a number of private institutions, but in general public system is dominant. Some institutions in Holland are private, but they also get state subsidies. So in fact they are part of the publicly financed system. There is no urgent reason to send your children to private institutions.

– What could you tell us about the student exchange between Holland and Bulgaria?

– There are over 1170 Bulgarian students at state financed universities now. A couple of years ago they were about 200, so the Bulgarians are the fastest growing group in the Netherlands in this respect. And we are happy about that fact. There are also companies, which actively incorporate Bulgarian students. The Netherlands is an internationally oriented country. It’s a small country, but very opened to the world. I often joke that if you want to see France – you go to France, if you want to see Germany – you go to Germany, but if you want to get to know the world – you go to the Netherlands.

Perhaps it is also interesting to mention about an institution in the Netherlands, which is called NIAS – Netherlands institute for advanced sciences. It gathers international scientists, who come and work together. There are also some Bulgarians, who study or work there for six months or a year. They have formed a group in Bulgaria and recently I had a meeting with them. What I see is that there is a lot of interaction going on and being in the European Union, which means things should go automatically, without our help.

– Which are the leading Holland universities, which students choose?

– It’s very difficult to say, because we do not have information about the different universities. But I speak to a lot of people. I go to the ministry and the secretary of the minister says: “My daughter studies in this university in Holland”. And then I speak to someone else and he says: “Yes, my niece is studying in the other university in Holland”. There is a wide choice of studies available and the Netherlands was the first non-English-speaking country, offering university education entirely in English.

– Are there any Holland institutions, which grant scholarships to foreign, as well as Bulgarian, students?

– I must say that this is done by the institutions themselves. And I know that there are certain possibilities. In the Netherlands we have a special organization, called Nuffic, which stands for Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education. It provides all the information needed and it is accessible on their website: There you can learn everything about the student opportunities.

– How could young people participate in trainee programs?

– In the Netherlands there is a strong tradition of cooperation between the universities, the institutions of education and the private sector. It’s quite normal for students studying there to participate in programs for 6 months. If people go to study in Holland, they automatically enter in such program.

– Does the Royal Holland academy collaborate with the Bulgarian academy of sciences?

– I’m not aware of direct cooperation between the Bulgarian academy of sciences and the Royal academy of sciences in the Netherlands. I know that there are institutions cooperating with each other, but I do not think there is an institutionalized link between the academies of sciences.

– A lot of Bulgarian students leave their country and prefer to live abroad. Is there such problem in Holland as well?

– No, I think that the problem in Bulgaria is that the opportunities and wages are low, so people tend to go abroad and stay abroad. We do not have such problem.

Questions: Desislava Pateva
Photo: Nikolay Nikolov

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