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Focus on Education Goals for Pacific Children

NEWS RELEASE


Friday, 4 August 2000

Focus on Education Goals for Pacific Children

Improving the education outcomes for Pacific children in New Zealand was being kept in sharp focus by policy-makers within his Ministry, the Secretary for Education Howard Fancy said today.

"Your top students are among the best in New Zealand - but in education too many children do not realise their potential," Howard Fancy told the Pacific Waves Conference at the Christchurch Convention Centre (Friday 4 August).

"It is of very serious concern that one in every four Pacific students leaves school with no education qualifications at all. Eliminating that gap must be a major goal."

"The Ministry of Education is strongly focussed on the need to increase participation in pre-school education, and to get the early learning foundations right," said Howard Fancy.

"For example, a key priority is to ensure that all Pacific children get a very strong basis in their first language - whether that language be English or a Pacific language.

"Support for parents, increased participation in early childhood education and raising the quality of early childhood provision are all important areas of work for us at present.

"We are taking a hard look at all of the barriers to early childhood that exist, and at how these can be overcome.

"This involves close co-operation with both the education sector and with the Pacific communities themselves to fund workable solutions.

"The importance of good consultation and dialogue with Pacific communities, for example, was evident from the enormous input and insights we gained from working with their representatives in the development of the Pacific teacher supply and recruitment strategy.

"We gained valuable insights into the reasons why students may not be attracted into teaching, for example, and how such barriers can be overcome. We were given better ways to communicate with potential teachers.

"As a policy maker, it is important to have a good understanding of the aspirations of the different Pacific communities and their cultures and languages. This is helping us to design and implement policies in ways that are relevant and effective for those communities and for their children.

"It is through our role in such areas as developing curriculum material or focussing on teacher professional development that we can create contexts that meet the specific needs of our Pacific children.

"The introduction of a Samoan language curriculum and the work that is now taking place to develop a Cook Islands language curriculum are important steps towards supporting the strong links between language and identity.

"Educational success requires getting many things right. It requires good schools, good early childhood centres and good teachers. It needs parents and communities valuing and supporting the education of their children. It requires strong and effective partnerships between educators, parents and communities. It also requires Government agencies, educators and communities to work together effectively.

"It needs teaching practices and education policies that understand Pacific students, their culture and their ways of doing things, helping them to gain the skills, knowledge and attitudes they need to succeed in a fast moving and knowledge-based world.

"It is also important that those students have confidence in themselves, their identity and their culture and that our education system supports and encourages this.

"Education success is much more likely when education policies and practices successfully integrate the acquisition of skills and knowledge with elements of culture and identity," Howard Fancy said.

ENDS

Enquiries: Simone Thompson Tel: (04) 471 6080


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