Fiji Education Ministry to propose language policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 11 13:49:24 UTC 2005

>>From the Fiji times

THE poor quality of Fijian vernacular used by children in urban centres
has prompted the Education Ministry to propose a language policy for
schools. Education Chief Executive Officer Alumita Taganesia said this can
be proved by listening to urban children talking in a "deteriorating
standard" of the Fijian language. "The English language has penetrated the
heart of our homes. Many Fijian children in urban areas cannot speak
Fijian well. And to make matters worse, parents continue to speak to their
children in English," Mrs Taganesia said.

At present the teaching of vernacular subjects like Fijian, Urdu and
Rotuman is not compulsory and the choice to teach these is left to
individual schools. Mrs Taganesia said the ministry would present the
Department of Culture and Heritage and the Institute of Fijian Language a
proposal to formulate a language policy for schools.

"The policy should set out clear guidelines in relation to the use of
vernaculars as well as the mother tongue in society, in the workplace and
in the formal education system," Mrs Taganesia said. "The number of Fijian
language speakers in the world today could hardly reach 500,000. And if we
consider the use of Fijian by some of our urban dwellers, the number could
be much less than this."

Mrs Taganesia said there would be wide consultation prior to the
formulation of the language policy. Recently, the ministry noted that
there has been a notable increase in the number of schools teaching
vernacular languages from Class One to seventh form. It is also an
examinable subject in the Fiji Junior Certificate, Fiji School Levaing
Certificate and the Fiji Seventh Form examinations.

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