[lg policy] Pacific preschools 'set back 30 years' by tough English-language tests

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 15 10:18:47 EST 2018

 Pacific preschools 'set back 30 years' by tough English-language tests
15 Jan, 2018 11:10am
4 minutes to read
Samoan Language Nest Society President Dr Salā Fa’asaulala
Tagoilelagi-Leota discusses intake for courses. / Video by Greg Bowker
[image: Simon Collins]
By: Simon Collins <http://www.nzherald.co.nz/author/simon-collins/>
Education reporter, NZ Herald
simon.collins at nzherald.co.nz

Pacific-language preschools say they have been set back 30 years by tough
new English language tests that have forced the closure of all dedicated
Pacific preschool teaching courses.

The last students in AUT University's Bachelor of Education (Pasifika Early
Childhood Teaching) graduated last month, and entry to Auckland
University's Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Pasifika early childhood
pathway has been suspended this year.

Other Pacific courses run by polytechnics, teachers' colleges and the NZ
Childcare Association, and a course for teachers in a'oga amata (Samoan
language nests) dating back to 1987, have all closed since the entry
requirement for all teacher training was raised to level 7
on the International English Language Testing System
<https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test/how-ielts-is-scored> (IELTS) in 2011.

For comparison, Auckland University
and AUT
require IELTS levels of only 6 for other undergraduate courses and 6.5 for
postgraduates including doctoral students.
Advertise with NZME. <http://advertising.nzme.co.nz/>

The head of AUT's education school, Lyn Lewis, said the level 7 hurdle "has
decimated the number of students who were eligible for teacher education".

A'oga Amata national president Pafitimai Salā Dr Fa'asaulala
Tagoilelagi-Leota said the course closures left her "gutted".

"We are back to square one when the training started in 1987," she said.

Ironically, the Pacific courses have closed just as the new Labour
Government has promised <http://www.labour.org.nz/pacific_island_affairs>
to declare Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island Māori, Niuean and Tokelauan as
"official community languages" and to "enhance" their use in the education

About a quarter of the 15,000 Pasifika children in NZ preschools learn in
Pacific languages
at least half the time in 106 childcare centres, including 61 in Samoan, 31
in Tongan, seven in Cook Islands Māori, four in Niuean and one each in
Tokelauan, Fijian and Pukapukan.

But the new English language requirement has blocked most mature Pasifika
people, who have the strongest Pasifika language skills and cultural
knowledge, from teaching preschoolers.

Tagoilelagi-Leota, a former head of the Pasifika programme at AUT, said she
used to get more than 300 applicants a year, but the numbers being admitted
dropped to 20 to 25 a year after 2011.

"We have lots of trained teachers from Samoa who came through the Samoan
[immigration] quota. They have high-quality Samoan, which is what our
Samoan early childhood centres want, but they have to sit the IELTS even if
they are qualified," she said.

The Associate Dean Pasifika in Auckland University's education faculty, Dr
Rae Si'ilata, said her faculty turned away more than 30 applicants for its
Pasifika early childhood pathway in 2016 because they failed the IELTS test.

Professor Graeme Aitken, who was then dean of the faculty, announced the
of the pathway last October because there were then only eight applicants
for this year's course.

But Si'ilata said she and other Pasifika staff would lobby to reinstate the
course next year, especially in view of Labour's changes.

She said research showed that children who learned to speak, read and write
in their heritage languages as well as in English, did better academically
than those who learned only in a second language, and were likely to have
better life choices.

Residents of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau were also NZ citizens and
there were more than four times as many Cook Islanders, Niueans and
Tokelauans in New Zealand than on their home islands.

"New Zealand has a constitutional responsibility to the users of those
languages," Si'ilata said.

However, Education Council deputy chief executive Lesley Hoskin said all
teachers had to have good English and/or Māori, New Zealand's official
languages, because teacher registration allowed them to teach anywhere, not
just in Pacific-language centres.

She said the Nursing Council
also required nurses to achieve level 7 on IELTS, and the Medical Council
required doctors to reach 7.5 in listening and speaking and level 7 in
reading and writing.

All Australian states
require teachers to have level 8 in listening and speaking and level 7 in
reading and writing.

"It is possible that we could consider raising the attainment level in the
future, but we would not consider lowering it," Hoskin said.

But she added: "If the status of the three official languages change, then
clearly the council would consider what changes to its requirements would
be needed."

National education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said her proposal for a national
languages policy would ensure long-term planning to recruit and train
language teachers.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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