The plug looks set to be pulled on funding Pacific language literacy in December – but not without opposition.
Central Auckland Samoan bilingual units are frustrated and disappointed by the Education Ministry’s decision to put the publication of its Tupu and Folauga series on hold as it looks for ways to lift English literacy among Pasifika students.
Head teacher Suzie-Jo Rasmussen from Richmond Road Primary School’s Samoan bilingual unit Mua I Malae says the decision is discriminating.
Her closet-sized resource room provides plenty of space to store vital reading material.
Material is provided by the ministry and also by the parent support network Matua Atinae which helps the unit’s 75 pupils by cutting and pasting Samoan translations over English books.
“Tupu means to grow. But it’s not going to grow, it’s going to be killed.
“The ministry’s attitude shows they don’t value our kids’ culture and they prefer to teach English while children lose their mother tongue.”
Kowhai Intermediate parent Joanne Okesene’s concerns prompted her to lay a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
“All Pacific Islanders need to be aware that this is happening. Our eldest grandchild is about to start school in the bilingual programme at Richmond and his language and cultural rights will be seriously eroded by this decision.
“There are plenty of studies that show children successful in their heritage language can translate that knowledge to English and so can be successful with both.
“They don’t have to be successful in English at the expense of the other language,” she says.
Auckland University’s faculty of education senior lecturer John McCaffery agrees.
He is one of a team that has been conducting research into the benefits of bilingual education for the ministry.
“Bilingualism and literacy in Pacific languages is identified in the ministry’s own website as a major contributor to academic success of Pasifika students in New Zealand schools. The apparent unawareness of ministry officials of their own research and policy astounds us and makes New Zealand look like something out of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. This appears to be little more than institutional racism and a Pacific Human Rights violation of major proportions.”
Ministry acting group manager for curriculum teaching and learning Howard Baldwin says te reo Maori and English are the only fully funded languages under current policy.
There are no plans to change the level of funding provided to the 33 New Zealand schools that have Pacific bilingual units but he says Pasifika students’ English literacy levels need lifting.
“The ministry is reviewing the Tupu and Folauga series while it investigates how curriculum support materials can best accelerate the achievement of Pasifika students in English literacy,” he says.
Mr Baldwin says the ministry will continue to provide guidelines, resources and professional development for teachers to support Pasifika languages as further support is designed under the Pasifika Education Plan.
– Auckland City Harbour News