by Catherine Delahunty
If we are serious about making school more effective for Pasifika kids, then it is logical to consider bi lingual Pasifika education in New Zealand schools.
Researchers have proven that the first years of schooling are much more successful when kids are taught in their mother tongue. Add to that the fact that many Pasifika languages are in danger of dying, parents want more childhood centres and schools to offer their kids bilingual education, and it looks like a fairly compelling case for bi lingual Pasifika education options.
Well, I would have thought so. But the National Government sees otherwise.
The Education and Science Select Committee Inquiry into Pacific languages in ECE heard from many experts who called for a special recognition of Pasifika languages in schools and ECE but without undermining the primacy of Te Reo Maori the first national language of this country.
Several languages, including are Cook Islands Maori, Tokelau and Niue are now seriously at risk. These are languages spoken in the Realm Islands, places that are constitutionally part of New Zealand and whose people are citizens of this country. Their languages are thus our languages. Other islands such as Samoa and Tonga also have a strong history in relation to New Zealand and a right to have their language education needs considered.
In rejecting these recommendations, the National MPs on the select committee failed to recognise that we are a Pacific island in the great ocean Te Moana nui a Kiwa.
It’s not good enough to put the onus completely on Pacific communities themselves to save their own languages as the Education Minster has done. A state investment is needed as well.
The Green Party is 100 percent in favour of prioritising Te Reo Maori, but we also need to embrace multilingualism as an educational benefit.. There needs to be a National Languages Policy to support the benefits of language learning before year 7 in Primary school.
It’s a shame we have to fight the Government on this when we should be united in supporting heritage languages and in celebrating our Pacific identity. The rest of the world is multilingual and proud of it while we can barely embrace Te Reo.
One academic told me that we turn the children who start school bilingual into monolingual people by the time they leave. What a waste.