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Address to Pre-School Samoa

Hon Jim Anderton
29 September 2000 Speech Notes

Address to Pre-School Samoa


Christchurch Polytechnic, Madras Street.

6:30PM Friday, 29 September 2000


Talofa Lava, Greetings to you all.

I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you.

This Government sees the early childhood sector as an integral part of the education system.

Quality early childhood education plays a vital role in helping to lay the foundations for the educational and social development of our young people.

There is ample evidence to suggest that good quality early childhood education has lasting positive spin-offs for both the individual and society as a whole.

Early childhood education improves opportunities for all children. For that reason, this Government believes that increasing participation in early childhood education is a key tool in meeting our 'closing the gaps' challenge.

I understand that the main issues raised by Pacific Early Childhood Educators are coordination, resourcing and staffing.

I want to say a little about each of these and also add something about the importance of Pacific culture to New Zealand, and the very important role that pre-school education has to play in that.

Co-Ordination

The Government has started the ball rolling on developing a strategic plan for the early childhood sector.

There is a desperate need in many parts of the country for quality, affordable early childhood education, but there is no strategy to meet this need. The sector needs some coherency.

My colleague the Education Minister Trevor Mallard has established an Early Childhood Education Strategic Planning working group.

It's being established to prepare a report on early childhood education goals spanning the next ten years.

The Government's early childhood education policy will:

 improve quality and access to early childhood education for all New Zealand children;

 identify and take into account relationships between government policy in early childhood education and other government policy goals, particularly those in labour market, health, welfare and Closing the Gaps policies; and

 give stability to the sector as to the future direction of early childhood education in New Zealand.

Resourcing

Earlier this year the government showed its commitment to Pacific children and their education when we announced an extra $3 million for early childhood education.

Because of that decision nine new Pacific early childhood centres – turned down by the previous government – will now get the go ahead to open.

The scheme provides capital assistance to community-based, not-for-profit, early childhood services to help them reach or retain licensing standards.

It's expected to help at least 20 groups become licensed early childhood centres.

Nearly half will be Pacific Island centres.

Many Pacific communities in New Zealand have all the will in the world but just don't have the means to raise all the funds needed for buildings.

They meet in places like garages and old halls that they need to vacate when another group books in.

What is really frustrating is that they have qualified staff who they cannot pay properly because their buildings do not meet criteria and they therefore miss out on funding.

Last year the National government denied funding to 9 centres when they allocated $1 million to a Pacific pool. Through that action, they denied quality early childhood education to about 250 children and as a result opened gaps further.

I am particularly pleased to be able to offer support to those communities to enhance the early childhood education they provide to their children.

More than 250 Pacific youngsters will get the head start they have been missing out on. – they will be moving out of basements and garages and into appropriate facilities.

This extra one off funding will help reduce the backlog of Pacific centres applying for a Discretionary Grant from the Pacific Islands Pool. This will mean those licence-exempt groups applying for a grant are more likely to be able to receive a grant and not have a few years of waiting in limbo.

In addtion, the budget included an increase of funding into both the General and Pacific pools of the Discretionary Grants Scheme. The General Pools will see $550,000 of new money and $2 million into the Pacific Pool (except in 2002/3 where the increase is $1.250m) on an ongoing basis.

I am convinced that this is a first-hand example of closing the disparity gaps.

Staffing

This government is serious about addressing staffing issues in the early childhood sector such as training and recruitment.

This is an auspicious week to speak to you. Only this week the Government announced that 40 Pacific scholarships would be offered each year to support students to undertake study to become registered early childhood teachers.

This is the first time that the Government has offered teaching scholarships for the early childhood sector.

It recognises the importance we place on high quality early childhood education.

In particular, we are anxious to increase the number of Pacific children participating in early childhood education which is worryingly low.

Last year 20% of Pacific 4-year-olds were missing out on early childhood education compared to just 2% of European children.

Trained and qualified Pacific early childhood teachers will be needed to complement other initiatives to address this.

The budget also announced a two-year recruitment campaign for Pacific and Maori teachers to run for two years.

Early childhood education services need teachers who have appropriate language and cultural understanding as well as appropriate teaching qualifications so that they can recognise and respond to the needs of Pacific people.

The scholarships represent a real boost for the Pacific early childhood sector and Pacific children.

Too many Pacific youngsters are missing out. Many are disadvantaged from the very beginning of their school life.

They arrive at school starting from scratch while many of their classmates have a head start because they already have been exposed to early childhood education.

Early childhood education plays a vital role in helping to lay the foundations for the educational and social development of our children and our communities.

If we want to have a strong Pacific culture in New Zealand then there has to be a strong commitment to Pacific culture, language and identity in New Zealand's education curriculum.

The 1996 Census reported that nearly half of all New Zealand born Samoans could not speak Samoan.

It's hardly surprising. Many of their parents felt there was no choice– employers, teachers and officials told Pacific families in New Zealand they needed English, not Samoan.

I believe that approach was flawed. New Zealand is enriched and strengthened by having encouraging multilingual children who have a strong connection with their origins and pride in their heritage.

Identity, values and language are closely interwoven. Many of you will be aware of research indicating that fluency in a child's mother tongue is a better basis for learning a second language.

It's our job, as a community, to reassure our children that they can live and succeed in both worlds.

This coalition government is committed to preserving Pacific languages and cultures.

We recognise that there are a range of Pacific cultures that have diverse needs requiring unique provision of Early Childhood education.

Although Samoan has been part of the National Curriculum Framework for several years, ongoing support and resourcing of the Samoan language is still required.

Alongside Samoan, the last census indicates that several Pacific languages are in need of intervention policies. Given the increase in New Zealand born Pacific people, a growing number of Pacific youth are non-speakers of their own language.

The Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Mark Gosche has his Ministry working jointly with the Ministry of Education of developing a language curriculum for Cook Islands Maori.

When we look across the Tasman this week and watch our athletes compete, we are quick to claim them all as New Zealanders. When we are urging them to succeed, we urging them on for the way it makes us all feel as New Zealanders.

I would like to see us as a community urge New Zealanders on not only in sport, but in everything we do, and to take pride in the achievements of all New Zealanders.

This is particularly important for Pacific people in New Zealand. We are quick to praise Pacific brilliance on the sports field, and increasingly we are seeing and claiming Pacific success in music and the arts.

But our culture and our community require also stellar success among Pacific New Zealanders in business, in academia and in very sphere of activity. As early childhood educators, you are the cradle of that success, and it will be dependent, in part, on our success in early childhood.

The key to a strong New Zealand economy and society that all sectors of our society must be strong – we need strong regions, and we need strong communities including our cultural communities.

For all the doom and gloom that we have heard about New Zealand in recent weeks, I want to tell you that I am passionate about this country and proud of it.

And part of what makes New Zealand distinctive and recognisable wherever you are in the world is the mix of cultural influences, including our rich Pacific heritage.

The days are gone now when Pacific people in New Zealand were expected to leave behind them their heritage. The challenge now is to ensure that the richness and diversity of our pacific traditions is adequately reflected in all our society – including in education.

We have a shared responsibility to work cooperatively in partnership to raise our children.

Pacific peoples have a right to expect the education system to be responsive to Pacific communities by valuing, respecting and understanding the differenct cultures across all sectors of the education system.

At the same time Pacific peoples must share some of the responsibility for making the Education system more culturally responsive by taking the opportunities to serve on Boards of Trustees, to encourage more trainee teachers and educators.

I know my colleagues, the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and the Minister of Education are committed to doing that. So too is the Alliance Pacific Islands spokesperson, Matt Robson, and I would like to take the opportunity to commit myself to that partnership.

Ends

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