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Government Inquiry on Pasifika Languages in ECE Falls Short

Government Inquiry on Pasifika Languages in ECE Falls Short

Languages group says monolingualism won’t help Pasifika students

The Auckland Languages Strategy Group says the Government’s Report on the Select Committee Inquiry into Pasifika Languages in Early Childhood Education falls short of any strategy for effective best evidence action into the future.

AUT University language academic Sharon Harvey says: “While the report does do a good job of summarising most of the very strong evidence that was presented to the Select Committee, on the value and potential benefits of greater support for education through Pasifika languages, we are disappointed to see it has now come out with almost no practical, strong or effective recommendations. The Report’s use of vague terms that demonstrate a lack of support and commitment to learning through Pacific languages as a means of lifting educational achievement is a concern.

“The quality of the evidence presented to the Committee on the value of bilingual education in early childhood was compelling, and the expertise of the people who made submissions was noted by the Inquiry itself. This was a critical opportunity for the Inquiry to make strong recommendations to Government that would make a significant impact for the many young Pasifika learners, who are otherwise struggling within New Zealand’s ‘English only’ approach to education.

“However, despite the value the Inquiry could have added in this area, the Report’s recommendations appear to fail to commit to any tangible action, funding or practical support to strengthen and promote Pacific languages at the ECE level, which is incredibly disappointing Researcher John McCaffery says: “While ECE participation rates are trending up for Pākehā, Pasifika and Māori children continue to be the least likely to attend quality early learning in the context of their own languages and cultures. The implications of this are simply too serious for weak support and inaction to be acceptable from our politicians and leaders.

“Trying to turn Pasifika students into ‘English only’ speakers by penny pinching measures is not a research-led best evidence solution. The economic implication of continued underachievement for our young Pasifika learners is millions of dollars over the next 20 years.

The social cost is even more significant. Is this a cost the Government - and the taxpayer - is willing to shoulder yet again?

“The Inquiry is the Government’s ‘response’ to the Pacific Languages and Literacy Petition which called for bilingual and biliteracy schooling to raise academic achievement and fulfill families’ bilingual hopes and aspirations for their children. The petition was never heard by the Select Committee and instead an Inquiry into language/s in ECE was established.

“The petition was signed by over 6,686 people and presented to Parliament in August 2011.

The response from Government that it has in effect heard the petition is not correct; it has considered only the issues of bilingualism at the early childhood level. It has not considered the issue of bilingual and biliteracy education that the petition asked for. This response seems sadly representative of the type of response we have come to expect from English-only advocates.”

Harvey notes: “If the Government is going to meets its own stated goals of social and economic equality and full participation for Pasifika communities in New Zealand, you can be sure that the vague and weak claims of ‘encouragement’ and ‘consideration’ we have seen in the Report are not going to get us there.”

The Auckland Languages Strategy Group which is made up of cross-sector representatives including education, language, culture and community organisations, is challenging the Government to stop its policy of educating largely for English monolingualism and leaving learning through Pacific languages up to individuals and already under-resourced families.


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