(No. 1)



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).

The Caribbean

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 education.



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.

The 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 and enforce.

Some useful articles about the Hawai’i situation are:

Au, Kathryn H. 1980. Participation structures in a reading lesson with Hawaiian children: analysis of a culturally appropriate instructional event. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 11, 91-115.
Au, 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 8/1, 191-216.
------. 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.


Joyce Hudson
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. She adds:

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.


Papua New Guinea

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 follows:

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

15 high schools
(grades 7-10) 54 teachers 462 students

6 training
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.


Duaro Embi
Evangelical Lutheran Church
PO Box 80

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!)



Solomon Islands

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.


Bernie O’Donnell
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. (p. xiii)
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. (p. 184)
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.


Enikelen Netine
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).


Terry Crowley
Pacific Languages Unit PO Box 12
Port Vila, VANUATU


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