Although pidgins and creoles are unofficially used in classrooms
around the world, there are relatively few educational programs
in which they are officially the language of instruction or
literacy. This section outlines some places where such programs
exist (and others where they don’t exist).
Different English-related creole languages are spoken in many
places in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, St Lucia, and Trinidad.
While there have been frequent calls, many politically motivated,
for the use of these creole languages in education, there seems
to be no published evidence that any programs have been implemented.
An interesting book on the subject is Language and Liberation:
Creole Language Politics in the Caribbean by Hubert Devonish
(London: Karia Press, 1987).
Haitian Creole (French-related) has been used
in adult literacy programs for many years and by government
decree, published in 1982, it was made the medium of instruction
and a subject of study for the first six years of primary education.
Details are given in a recent article, “Haitian Creole: a challenge
for education” by Alain Bentolila in Diogenes (number
137, 1987, pages 73-87).
In the Indian Ocean, another French-related creole, Seselwa
(Seychellois), has been used in education for many years in
the Seychelles. Over the last decade, it has advanced from being
only a medium of instruction to the language of initial literacy
and a subject of study throughout the first four years of primary
Hawai’i Creole English has never been endorsed
for general use in the islands’ schools, but it has been accepted
to some extent in the Kamehameha Early Education Program (KEEP)
for ethnic Hawaiian children. Using a “language experience approach”,
teachers in this program based their reading instruction on
children’s utterances, whether in Hawai’i Creole or in Standard
(American) English. While Standard English remained the medium
of instruction, discourse strategies and participation structures
used by Hawai’i Creole speakers were adopted by the program
for use in the classroom.
1987 Hawai’i Board of Education Standard English-only policy
just mentioned above met with widespread public opposition people
also realized that it was virtually impossible to implement
useful articles about the Hawai’i situation are:
Kathryn H. 1980. Participation structures in a reading lesson
with Hawaiian children: analysis of a culturally appropriate
instructional event. Anthropology and Education Quarterly
Kathryn H, and J.M. Mason. 1983. Cultural congruence in classroom
participation structures: achieving a balance of rights. Discourse
Processes 6, 145-67.
Sato, Charlene. 1985. Linguistic inequality in Hawaii: the
post-creole dilemma. In Language of inequality, ed.
by N. Wolfson and J. Manes (Berlin: Mouton), 255-72.
------. 1989a. Language attitudes and socio-linguistic variation
in Hawaii. University of Hawai’i Working Papers in ESL
------. 1989b. A non-standard approach to Standard English.
TESOL Quarterly 23, 259-82.
Speidel, Gisela E. 1981. Language and reading: bridging the
language difference for children who speak Hawaiian English.
Educational Perspectives 20, 23-30.
------. 1987. Conversation and language learning in the classroom.
In Children’s language (Volume 6), ed. by K.E. Nelson
and A. van Kleek (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum), 99-135.
Kriol (the creole of the Northern Territory)
has been used in education at Barunga (formerly called Bamyili)
since 1975, when an experimental program was started in the
community preschool. A formal bilingual program, under the Northern
Terri-tory Department of Education, began at the primary school
in 1977. The model of “partial bilingualism” has been adopted,
with Kriol being used for reading and writing until English
is introduced at the grade four or five level. Kriol is then
restricted to subject matter relating to cultural heritage.
A recent report on the bilingual program has been published
by the Department of Education: Barunga School: accreditation
process for Northern Territory bilingual schools, 1988.
Kriol is also reportedly used as the language of instruction
at the community school in Ngukurr. Although it is not used
for reading and writing at present, there has been some discussion
of starting a formal bilingual program.
Kriol has also been a subject of study at another school, Yiyili,
in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. But there it was
an “awareness” rather than initial literacy program, although
some creative writing in Kriol was used in translation exercises
to English. According to a paper by Joyce Hudson (“Kriol or
English: an unanswered question in the Kimberleys”, presented
at the 54th ANZAAS Congress in Canberra in 1984), the program
was “based on the premise that if children could be taught how
to separate Kriol from English, along with the social rules
for appropriate use of each language, they would learn English
better and quicker”.
At present, an in-service “awareness” course is being developed
by the Catholic Education Office for teachers in the Kimberley
region. This course, which is being trialled this year, is aimed
at helping teachers of Kriol-speaking children to understand
more of the children’s language. The ultimate goal, however,
is to make teaching of Standard English more effective.
PO Box 1264
Broome 6725 AUSTRALIA
With regard to Torres Strait Creole (also known
as Broken, Pizin and Blaikman), Anna Shnukal of the University
of Queensland reports that she has observed a great amount of
teaching carried out in the language, but that it wasn’t acknowledged
officially. In fact, there is great resistance to the use of
Torres Strait Creole (TSC) in education, both from educators
and Islanders themselves, even from those who are native speakers.
I doubt very much that Islanders would accept even the teaching
of initial literacy skills in the creole, although this may
change in the future, especially with the proposed publication
of the New Testament in TSC. Although TSC has taken over domains
formerly reserved for English, it isn’t yet accepted as written
language. All the written material I’ve seen has been written
in English orthography.
More on Torres Strait Creole will be published in the next issue.
Although Tok Pisin has not been officially
used in government schools, it has been used as a medium of
instruction for years in many church-run schools, which provide
a large proportion of primary education in the country. In the
Catholic church, the Divine Word Mission declared Tok Pisin
its official language as early as 1931. Although the Lutheran
church preferred using indigenous church lingua francas for
education, they did have at least one “Pidgin school” as early
as 1950. But in 1962, the Education Department decreed that
only English should be used in schools receiving subsidies from
the Australian Administration, and so the use of Tok Pisin waned.
However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG established
a “Bible School” program to be distinct from the Administration’s
official education program so that vernacular languages including
Tok Pisin could still be taught. In 1973 there were 340 teachers
and 9500 student at Lutheran primary schools where Tok Pisin
was the main (or sometimes the only) medium of instruction.
(This information comes from articles by Francis Mihalic and
G.L. Renck in New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study,
Vol. 3, Language, Culture, Society and the Modern World,
edited by Stephen S. Wurm [Canberra: Pacific Linguistics C-40,
1977, pages 643-69]).
The newly independent Papua New Guinea government simply carried
on with the educational policy established by the Australian
Administration. But there have been revolutionary changes in
educational policy since the 1986 appearance of the Ministerial
Committee Report, A Philosophy of Education for Papua New
Guinea. The most recent development is that the Secretary
of Education has recently (6th June 1989) endorsed a plan including
a list of responsibilities and strategies for raising the level
of literacy in the country. The preamble to this plan is as
In order to improve the quality of education, to strengthen
traditional cultures and values, to facilitate participation
by citizens in national life, to promote national unity and
to raise the level of literacy in Tok Ples, Tok Pisin, Hiri
Motu and English, we recommend the development of educational
programmes to ensure that children, out of school youth and
adults become literate in Tok Ples, transfer their skills
to Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu or English and maintain their literacy
skills in these languages.
The plan encourages communities to set up preparatory classes
to teach initial literacy in Tok Ples before children enter
Grade 1. It is up to each community to decide what Tok Ples
is to be used. “Tok Ples” usually refers to indigenous vernacular
languages, but in the plan it is defined to also include lingua
francas, such as Tok Pisin.
The widest range of programs is still run by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of PNG. The following numbers for schools and
other training institutions where Tok Pisin is the medium of
instruction (as of September 1989) have been provided by Duaro
Embi, the Lutheran Church Assistant Secretary for Tok Ples Education:
78 primary schools
(grades 1-6) 164 teachers 648 students
(grades 7-10) 54 teachers 462 students
institutions 20 teachers 79 students
TOTAL: 1189 students
These programs are non-transitional in that they are not meant
to prepare students to go on to mainstream English-medium schools.
Evangelical Lutheran Church
PO Box 80
Lae, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Another large-scale program is run by Pacific Islands Ministries
in the East Sepik Province. This program is described as the
feature program later in the newsletter.
A different type of non-transitional program is being run in
the Eastern Highlands Province, described by Joy McCarthy in
a paper presented at the National Seminar on Community-based
Education, held last year in Port Moresby. Here adults learn
initial literacy in their first language, Inoke, and then go
on to learn to read and write in Tok Pisin. As of December 1988,
there was a total enrolment of 3041 in the program in 52 villages,
and 1483 “new literates” had been trained.
There are several other educational programs in Tok Pisin, such
as the national Kisim Save adult literacy program,
but I haven’t been able to get any details about them. (If anyone
knows anything, please send some information so I can include
it in the next newsletter!)
In contrast with Tok Pisin, Solomons Pijin
(another variety of Melanesian Pidgin) has been used hardly
at all in education.
One pioneering program in Solomons Islands is being run by the
Nazareth Apostolic Centre near the capital of Honiara. It involves
teaching women initial literacy in Pijin. One teaching method
being used is making sets of letters of the alphabet with bamboo
pieces (like Scrabble tiles). Also, the Pijin news from the
radio is being transcribed and printed to use as reading material.
Plans are also being made for a full intensive year of preparing
some literacy teachers in 1991.
Nazareth Apostolic Centre
PO Box 197
Honiara, SOLOMON IS.
Although Bislama is constitutionally the national
language of Vanuatu, it is not officially recognized as a language
of education. (English and French are given this role.) However,
according to the 1987 report of the Asian Development Bank/Australia
Development Assistance Bureau Joint Technical Assistance Team
on Vocational Training and the Labour Market in Vanuatu
(Asian Development Bank, T.A. No. 810-VAN Vocational Training
Project), Bislama is used as the language of instruction in
the Police Training School, the Trade Training and Testing Scheme,
the Marine Training School and 10 different rural training institutions.
Here are some quotations from the report about the use of Bislama:
The Study Team believes that most of the vocational training
currently provided in Vanuatu is at a level where Bislama
could be used far more extensively with no detriment to efficiency.
The Study Team notes that the Marine Training School is able
to provide instruction in marine engineering to international
standards using Bislama as the primary language of instruction.
All teachers at INTV [the national technical training institution]
should be required to develop fluency in Bislama. Intensive
Bislama courses on arriving in Vanuatu should be provided
for this purpose. (p. 185)
The International Literacy Year Committee of Australia has funded two programs on the island of Malakula in Vanuatu as part of the larger Melanesian Literacy Project. Both programs involve teaching initial literacy in Bislama, one to women and one to out-of-school youth. The programs are being run by the World Vision organization, headed in Port Vila by Kali Vatoko, with Enikelen Netine doing the teacher training and coordination in the field. Enikelen attended the second National Literacy Training Course in PNG earlier this year (see below). A preschool program using Bislama is also going ahead in the area.
c/o World Vision Office
Port Vila, VANUATU
Also in Vanuatu, Bislama is used in education in a way which
must be unique for any pidgin: it is the medium of instruction
and the subject of study for a second year university course
in linguistics. The course, Introdaksen long Stadi blong
Bislama was written by Terry Crowley and has been taught
by him since 1985 at the Pacific Languages Unit of the University
of the South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The course is for
Bislama speakers who have completed the intro-ductory linguistics
course taught at the university (in English).
Pacific Languages Unit PO Box 12
Port Vila, VANUATU