Talofa and welcome Luka to class
Luka Klubien doesn’t quite know all the words in Samoan yet.
But with the right education, the seven-yearold should be fluent by the time he starts college.
Luka is a member of the Mua-i-Malae Samoan bilingual unit at Richmond Road Primary School.
The class is made up of 80 children who learn in both Samoan and English.
The programme has been successful up to year 6, but there are few options available for children to continue bilingual education at intermediate.
Feeonaa Wall’s son has been in the bilingual unit since he started school.
She would like to see him continue his education at intermediate school, so she is working with Kowhai Intermediate School to start a Samoan class in 2009.
Ms Wall says children need to continue bilingual learning as long as possible.
“If you stop the programme too soon, you don’t get as many benefi she says.
“We are trying to feed this out into our communities and give the children as many opportunities as possible to extend their learning.”
The Samoan bilingual unit has been running at Richmond Road school since 1986.
The school also offers Maori and French immersion units.
Children study the same subjects as mainstream classes but topics take on a cultural focus.
For example, in a current unit about animals, children are studying the fish and birds in Samoa.
Junior students spend most of their time learning in Samoan up to year 4 and then spend three days a week in Samoan and two in English up to year 6.
Principal Hayley Read says the school’s bilingual programmes have been a great success.
“International research does show children who are bilingual achieve at or above the level of their uni-lingual classmates,” she says.
“We want them to have the confidence to be proud of who they are and flexibility in any language.”
Kowhai Intermediate principal Paul Douglas says the school recognises students need at least eight years of bilingual education to be confident in both languages.
“The value of a bilingual approach is like Velcro because best learning always occurs when new concepts are firmly hooked on to existing experiences and understandings,” he says.
“Samoan students will learn best when their rich prior knowledge comes into play, rather than being left at the school gate.”
He says he is open to the possibility of a bilingual class, but it will need to secure funding and have at least 25 full-time students to be viable.
Luka says it is a good idea for people to know more than one language.
“That way if a person speaks to you in another language you can talk back and you can understand them,” he says.
Kowhai Intermediate would like to receive expressions of interest in the bilingual unit.
For more information call 846-7534 or email pauldouglas@kowhai. school.nz.
Mother tongue: Luka Klubien, left, and Antonio Wulf, both 7, are members of the Samoan bilingual unit at Richmond Road Primary School. The school wants to extend the programme to intermediate level.