Fwd: Cultural identity for toddlers (bilingual ed. in PNG)
- FYI, an interesting story about how the world's most linguistically diverse
country has implemented a bilingual education approach by beginning at the
pre-school level. (Fwd from ILAT)... DZO
Education Today Newsletter
JULY - SEPTEMBER 2005
Cultural identity for toddlers
Until 1995, education in Papua New Guinea, an island nation in the South
Pacific, was in English.
As the world's most linguistically diverse nation, with 823 living languages
spoken by a population of 5.2 million, there may have been some logistic value
in this, but it did little to foster a sense of national and cultural identity.
In 1979, parents in Bougainville Island, in North Solomons Province put forward
the idea of providing their children with two years of pre-school education in
their own language, before the first grade of primary school, which would be in
English. The Viles Tok Ples Skul (village language school) was born, later
becoming the Tok Ples Pri Skul (vernacular language pre-school).
During the 1980s three other provincial governments and four other language
communities followed suit. Vernacular language pre-schools sprung up elsewhere
over the next decade, but remained informal, with no national curriculum, and
with teaching materials prepared by NGOs. The education reforms of 1995 finally
led to the development of a national curriculum, encouraging vernacular
language teaching in the two years before primary school, with a gradual
introduction of English after that. By fifth grade, teaching is 30 per cent in
the local language, 70 per cent in English. At the end of 2000, vernacular
language pre-schools were teaching in 380 language groups.
A similar initiative is just beginning in Vanuatu, also in Melanesia, which has
some 106 local languages for a population of just 200,000. And, in New Zealand,
Te köhanga reo ("language nest") is a total immersion programme for Maori
children from birth to age 6, where they speak Maori and learn within an
indigenous cultural context. The programme started in 1982.
From UNESCO Policy Briefs on Early Childhood, October 2002
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