General discussion

Based on the discussions and data collected from schools and, there seems to be a general lack of clarity about the goals of Pacific bilingual education, in relation to the aims of bilingualism and biliteracy. The bilingual education models discussed earlier are theory-based, and highlight practical implications and outcomes.

While schools’ have the best interests of their learners and community at heart, there is a need for a research-informed and coordinated approach to bilingual education. Wider sectoral discussions and understanding of bilingual education models in the context of bilingualism and biliteracy could help with a consistent approach to bilingual education across sectors, and in relation to different learner/language groups. Utilising bilingual education research could also inform schools about second language acquisition theories and pedagogies. Given the general lack of coordination of Pacific bilingual education units, there could be an opportunity for schools to collaborate and support each other with a broader consistent approach in the provision of bilingual education, similar to groups like the Teen Parents Association or Activity Centres Network.

Research shows the enrichment bilingual education model is most probably the best model for Pacific bilingual education in New Zealand given its aim for bilingualism and biliteracy, as well as extension of the minority language and culture into the community and nationally.

Gaining greater support for immersion programs and further strengthening bilingual education pedagogies, particularly in relation to achieving biliteracy objectives, have been key for the success of Māori bilingual programmes (May, Hill, & Tiakiwai, 2006).  

The variation in assessment practices and lack of appropriate assessment tools for learners in Pacific bilingual units is a specific area of concern.  Assessment of educational outcomes for learners in bilingual education contexts need to be cognisant of, and appropriate to, such language learning contexts. The acquisition of bilingualism varies with age and over time.

The philosophies of these bilingual units espouse a vision that values and nurtures the learner’s language, culture and identity. However, many of the Pacific bilingual units use English-medium tools to assess their bilingual learners. Research recommends age-appropriate assessment for learners in the heritage language to understand levels of bilingualism, rather than what the learner lacks (May, et al, 2006).

The use of Pacific languages within New Zealand schools to enhance the language learning and educational achievement of Pacific learners is still not well understood. Despite important and ongoing research and professional development initiatives, it remains the case that there is still a relative absence of research on Pacific bilingualism and its links with schooling (Hill, 2017). An in‑depth study would help to further investigate the disconnect between the schools’ philosophy and their pedagogical practices. This could also further assist schools in identifying the support they need to implement effective bilingual education curricula, including the resources and tools to support both teachers and learners.

Case studies of effective Pacific bilingual education practices from exemplar schools could be used to further guide the development of specific organisational and pedagogical practices within other bilingual education programmes. Often such studies are part of academia which may not necessarily be shared with the wider sector.

Both Māori and Pasifika communities face significant issues in safeguarding their languages in a context where English is the dominant language and minority languages have a lower profile. While the situations of Māori and Pacific languages in New Zealand are not neatly analogous, the success of Māori immersion and bilingual education in revitalising te reo Māori suggests a potential model of effective practice, in combination with evidence from successful bilingual education in immigrant languages in other jurisdictions.

There are compelling 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. It is less clear that such an investment would be an effective lever for system-level improvement of Pacific learner achievement. Currently fewer than three percent of Pacific learners are participating in bilingual or immersion units. It would be useful to assess the level of unmet demand for Pacific bilingual education.

Finally, ERO proposes to undertake work to: use available longitudinal data to monitor outcomes for students enrolled in Pacific bilingual education, and conduct further research and evaluation into models of effective bilingual teaching.