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Cook Islands language week highlights bilingual education

Su’a William Sio
Pacific Island Affairs Spokesperson

7 August 2012

Cook Islands language week highlights bilingual education

Events celebrating Cook Islands Language Week highlight the importance of indigenous languages and Pacific bilingual education here in New Zealand, says Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio.

This is the first national celebration of the Cook Islands language with a week of events (6-10 August) inspired by similar celebrations for Maori, Samoan, Tongan and New Zealand sign communities.

The theme for the week is; ‘Taku reo ko toku ia akairo – my language gives meaning to my existence and identity.

“This is an important message already embraced by the community here and overseas,” Su’a William Sio said.

“However, the Government’s record on bilingual education is mixed. While I want to commend the Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand for developing four Cook Islands bilingual language books - which will be launched this Friday - there is no indication as to whether the Government will recommit to the TUPU series and Folauga journals it put on hold.

“The community remain concerned by the Government’s removal of the Pacific language bilingual plan from its overall strategy, including the TUPU resource series for Cook Islands children, and believe Pacific bilingual language education should be reinstated.

“It is worrying that almost 80 percent of Cook Islanders living and going to school in Auckland cannot speak their indigenous language. We all know that remaining fluent in a language takes a lot of effort.

“A parliamentary select committee will soon be hearing public submissions on an inquiry into Pacific bilingual education that Labour has led. While National wants to focus only on early childhood education, we are calling on the Pacific community who wish to speak to make a submission on the value of pacific bilingual education more generally.

“Our indigenous languages must be valued,” Su’a William Sio said.

ENDS

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