Current Provision of Pacific Bilingual Education

The use of Pacific languages within New Zealand schools to enhance language learning and educational achievement of Pacific learners is still not well understood according to an Education Review Office (ERO) report released today (13 August).

In November 2018, ERO met with schools that currently offer some form of Pacific bilingual education and invited thirty schools to complete a survey about: their philosophy; their curriculum, teaching, assessment and transition practices; the tracking of learners’ pathways and outcomes; and the support they currently receive and need.

The main purpose of the survey was to help ERO and the Ministry of Education understand how Pacific bilingual education can effectively support Pacific learners’ educational achievement and success.

Twenty-two of the 25 schools that completed the survey clearly identified that they provide Pacific bilingual or immersion education, overwhelmingly in Samoan. Others stated that they offered Pacific languages as a subject only -learning the language, rather than learning in the language.

Approximately 35 percent of the 5,455 Pacific learners in the 22 schools were enrolled in Pacific bilingual and/or immersion education programmes.

"ERO found that Pacific bilingual education programmes were somewhat idiosyncratic,” said Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole.

"The programmes were developed locally and resourced out of schools' baseline funding. They didn’t receive additional funding for the development of resources."

The 22 surveyed schools expressed a general philosophy about the importance of Pacific languages, culture and identity but were less likely to have developed an approach focused on the objectives of bilingual education, informed by research and best practice.

ERO found support for learners to transition in and out of bilingual and/or immersion education varied, and there is an overall challenge of identifying and accessing meaningful bilingual education pathways in senior secondary schools and beyond.

The variation in these schools' assessment practices and the lack of age-appropriate assessment tools for learners in Pacific bilingual and/or immersion education was a specific area of concern.

The arguments for improving access to curriculum learning in Pacific languages as a matter of equity, and to maintain and enhance the health of Pacific languages, are compelling.

The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) positions Pacific languages as having a special place in New Zealand, in the wider learning area of learning languages.

Learning a language also contributes to children and young people taking their place in a multicultural community, and supports the wider wellbeing of the community and New Zealand.

From what ERO found, there is an opportunity for the general coordination of Pacific bilingual education programmes, and for schools to collaborate and support each other with a broader consistent approach in the provision of bilingual education,” said Mr Pole.

Editor’s notes:

Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations: The Wellbeing budget has invested $27.4 million over four years to deliver a broad range of initiatives aimed at lifting and sustaining achievement for all Pacific students, their families and communities

At Kōrero Mātauranga fono Pacific people said they want to see more of their language, culture and identity reflected in New Zealand’s education system.