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Churches urged to support Pacific language

Churches urged to support Pacific language campaign and petition

Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio has written to Pacific churches asking them to support a petition advocating bilingual education programmes for Pacific students.

Su’a William Sio said the petition has been developed by Auckland University academics Judy Taligalu McFall-McCaffery and John McCaffery and le afioga Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin of Victoria University in Wellington.

“While these academics have through their research built up evidence that shows that Pacific kids who are supported with a bilingual education programme have a strong academic advantage, Education Minister Anne Tolley thinks she knows best. She intends to cut the production of Pacific language resources such as the TUPU language series and the Samoan Folauga journals.

“The research also provides evidence that children who learn and maintain their first language build up a set of skills which are transferable to learning English as well,” Su’a William Sio said.

“In fact their research has been used by the Ministry of Education to establish resources that are used by various schools to teach Pacific Bilingual classes with the precise aim of enhancing Pacific children’s overall academic success.

“This apparently doesn’t count with Anne Tolley,” Su’a William Sio said. “She made it clear when I questioned her in Parliament that she wants to focus on English literacy only, though she has no evidence to support her approach.

“Anne Tolley is being dictatorial. She should have at least consulted with parents, boards of school trustees, academics and the Pacific community to hear our communities’ genuine concerns.”

Su’a William Sio said he would be honoured to table the petition in Parliament. It reads: “Respectfully requests that the House urge the Government to introduce and fully fund Pacific languages literacy and English literacy development through Bilingual Education programmes for Pacific students in order to: raise students academic achievement, maintain and revive Pacific languages, and make the programmes readily available on an optional basis to Pacific families and communities in English and the five main Pacific languages of New Zealand; Cook Island Māori, Vagahau Niue, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga.”


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