(No. 8)




Pidgins and creoles in education

The recent Sociolinguistics and Language Teaching, edited by Sandra Lee McKay and Nancy H. Hornberger (Cambridge University Press, 1996), contains an excellent chapter on “Pidgins and creoles” by Patricia C. Nichols (pp.195-217). The chapter is a comprehen-sive but very accessible introduction to P/Cs and some of the educational issues concerning them, and makes important reading for any educator. As the author points out (p.196), “The consequences of teachers’ and school administrators’ ignorance of pidgin and creole language varieties can be enormous for children who enter school speaking them.” An interesting theme of the chapter is that students are quite adept at distinguishing differences between teachers’ and students’ ways of speaking, and that teachers should be as well.

The chapter defines pidgin and creole languages in general and describes common negative (and uninformed) attitudes towards them, especially in school settings. Then it goes into more detail about the origins of these languages. A brief history of the study of pidgins and creoles is given and some theoretical and methodological issues are outlined.

Nichols mentions some of the creoles likely to be encountered in contemporary English-speaking classrooms. Using Gullah as an example, she illustrates some structural, functional and pragmatic differences to more “standard” varieties of English in order to give teachers an idea of what to look for in their students’ language.

The author advocates the use of pidgins and creoles as resources in the classroom and stresses the importance of teachers at least knowing something about the languages and cultures of their students. (She even includes a plug for the PACE Newsletter!)

The chapter concludes with a call for research into discourse-level differences between home and school languages. A list of suggestions for further reading follows the text.

A slightly older, but also very useful book chapter is “Teaching speakers of Caribbean English Creoles in North American class-rooms” by Lise Winer in Language Variation in North American English: Research and Teaching edited by A. Wayne Glowka & Donald M. Lance (Modern Language Association of America, New York, 1993), pp.191-98). Here is the introduction (p.191):

This article is a guide for teachers and teacher trainers about Caribbean English, Caribbean English Creole, and the special needs of students whose first language is a variety of Caribbean English Creole. It briefly discusses some of the basic knowledge of Caribbean culture and language that teachers should have, and provides information from which both teachers and students can learn about language use in situations in which a creole language is in contact with its lexically related standard language: in this case, where English Creole speakers are in North America.

Winer points out how Caribbean students are sometimes perceived as having “language problems” and are placed in ESL or speech therapy classes. She then gives a clear summary of the characteristics of varieties of Caribbean English Creole, describing their enormous variation, their low prestige and their relationship with standard varieties of English. She notes (p.195):

Any approach to the teaching of students whose first language is English Creole, recognized or not, must include knowledge about and acceptance of the language and its culture, contrasted specifically with English language and culture varieties. Without an awareness, on the part of teachers, administrators, and others, of the validity of creoles and an understanding of their relationship with English, the students; progress will be continually short-circuited.

The author gives many suggestions and resources for the study of the social, cultural and political background and for the study of the language. She doesn’t suggest that teachers become fluent in English Creole – rather, that teachers work with their students to figure out cultural and linguistic differences and whether these might be the basis of difficulties students are facing. She recommends two guiding principles (p.198): “(1) respect the student, the student’s culture, and the student’s language; and (2) suspect language to be involved in apparent non-linguistic problems.”

Another recent book has two chapters relevant to PACE: Caribbean Language Issues Old and New edited by Pauline Christie (The Press of the University of the West Indies, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, 1996). This is a collection of papers in honour of Professor Mervyn Alleyne on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

In “Language policy (1): Towards a rational approach for Caribbean states” (pp.112-19), Ian Robertson takes the position that “any language policy must be premised on its potential to contribute to the wider goals of education” (p.114) – that is, to prepare people to function effectively in their society. He describes the sociolinguistic situation in Caribbean countries, where the creole languages are generally used for informal functions in everyday interaction and the standard languages used for official functions in education, public communica-tion, the courts and the church. Robertson points out that contrary to popular belief, there is actually quite a bit of overlap in use of the creole and standard languages in the various functions. Nevertheless, because of persisting negative attitudes, creoles have basically been considered irrelevant to formal education.

Although there have been some changes in these attitudes, they have been slow, and vary from country to country in the region. Some important factors relevant to language policy in the different countries are the official language of their neighbours (eg French or Spanish) and the presence of large populations of people of South Asian origin (ie in Trinidad and Guyana).

With regard to specific languages used in the education system, Robertson mentions arguments for the use of English because it is an international language and against its use because very few will actually be involved in international communication. Rather, it is argued, using the first language would lead to better educational results and a more positive linguistic self-concept.

The author also distinguishes between language teaching and language education. Students need to be competent in the language used as the medium of instruction and in an international language, but they also need to know about language as a human social phenomenon and about all the particular languages which are relevant to their society.

In “Language policy (2): The case for creole in formal education in St Lucia” (pp.120-42), Hazel Simmons-McDonald considers the question of “whether or not creole ought to be used as a language of instruction within the formal education system” (p.121). She starts off by presenting some of the arguments on both sides, and then describes learners in St Lucia as falling into one of three groups on the basis of their first languages: French Creole (Group A), English Creole (Group B) and St Lucia standard English, the official language (Group C). After reporting some literature about the effects of using the first language in education, the author describes her own research in St Lucia showing that after 2.5 years of formal education, Group A speakers lagged behind their counterparts in the other groups. However, Group B speakers still did not acquire the proficiency in standard English needed for formal education.

Considering the work of Carrington, Craig and others on models and factors involved in language planning in creole situations, Simmons-McDonald proposes (1) that French Creole be used as a language of instruction for Group A speakers while at the same time English is taught as a second language. (2) that methods of teaching English as a second dialect be implemented for Group B speakers, while French Creole is taught as a second language, and (3) that standard English be used as the language of instruction for Group C students, while they are also given exposure to both French and English Creole. The goal is therefore bilingualism and bidialectalism. In order to determine the economic costs of such a policy, she recommends a carefully researched pilot program and a detailed survey of the number of speakers in each group who will be attending school and their geographic distribution.

Language Reclamation: French Creole Language Teaching in the UK and the Caribbean by Hubisi Nwenmely (Multilingual Matters, Clevedon, 1996) is a very informative book on Kwéyòl, the French Creole of St Lucia and Dominica. Large numbers of Kwéyòl speakers migrated to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s, but within a generation language shift to English was nearly complete within the community. According to the author (p.1):

However, many second- and third- generation children now express unhappiness at their limited proficiency in Kwéyòl and some have taken positive steps to reclaim their linguistic heritage. For them Kwéyòl is a symbol of distinctive cultural identity which sets them apart not only from white Britons, but also from other Black British groups, such as Barbadians and Jamaicans. This book attempts to document the efforts of students and tutors in Kwéyòl classes in various parts of London to assert their cultural identity.

After the introduction, Ch.2 of the book presents a discussion of various general language-related issues such as attitudes, identity, maintenance and shift, and policy and planning. Then Ch.3 gives some historical and sociolinguistic background about Kwéyòl in the Caribbean, including information about its use in education. In Ch.4 the focus shifts to Britain, describing the patterns of settlement of Kwéyòl speakers, changing patterns of language use and the current Kwéyòl community in London.

Ch.5 discusses methodology and argues for the use of a “critical ethnography” which draws on a variety of sources and employs various methods of data collection. Then the next three chapters concern the classes that were set up to teach Kwéyòl. Classes are of two types: the language course, which aims to teach people how to speak Kwéyòl, and the literacy course, intended for people who know how to speak Kwéyòl but not how to read and write it. These chapters give background on their formation, discuss associated resources such as standardization and materials production (in the Caribbean as well as the UK) and describe efforts in assessment and accreditation. The final chapter draws together the various themes of the book and discusses wider implications.

An article that should stir up some controversy is “Attitudes to literacy in the pidgins and creoles of the Pacific Area” by Peter Mühlhäusler, published in English World-Wide 16/2, 1995 (pp.251-71). The main theme is that “the idea that pidgins and creoles of the region could and should be reduced to writing originated with expatriate outsiders; it neither reflects the socio-economic realities of the main user groups nor necessarily their aspirations” (p.252). The author gives a history of official and unofficial attempts by colonial governments and missions in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to provide literacy for varieties of Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin). According to the author, these were for one or more of the following purposes: to communicate with the extremely multilingual population, to “civilise” the indigenous population, to keep them at the bottom of the social ladder, or to promote political and economic development leading to independence. With regard to the attitudes of the indigenous population towards these efforts, he points out that little is known.

Mühlhäusler says that “English is catching up with Tok Pisin as the main language of wider communication and that English, but not Tok Pisin, is becoming the dominant mode of expressing oneself in writing” (p.259). He mentions recent government emphasis on vernacular literacy, but says that its effects on Tok Pisin literacy remain to be seen. [However, see the PACE Newsletter 3, p.3, where it is reported that Tok Pisin was the third most widely used language in vernacular literacy programs.]

Some historical background is also given for Melanesian Pidgin in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and for Northern Australian Kriol and Torres Strait Creole. The role of expatriate linguists and missionaries is again emphasized for each [despite recent local developments, as reported in the PACE Newsletter 5 and 6]. Finally, a comparison is made with Caribbean creoles.

Mühlhäusler concludes that creole literacy can only be transitional, since it is English literacy that gives people access to jobs.

Two recent articles in The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education are relevant to PACE. The first, by Anna Shnukal, is “Language in learning at Thursday Island High School” (Vol.24 no.2, 1996, pp.42-52). It is a report of a study done for the high school on the major linguistic differences between Standard Australian English (SAE) and Torres Strait Creole (TSC), the language of the majority of the students. Shnukal points out that Islander culture is predominantly an oral one, using the three Islander languages; written communication, when it is used, is predominantly in English. TSC has become the young people’s lingua franca, and is an important marker of Islander, as opposed to European, identity. However, with the exception of some minor opposition, most people support the continued use of SAE as the language of education.

Shnukal describes contemporary TSC and language mixing with English and then outlines some formal and rhetorical differences between TSC and SAE. She also presents some important observations of Torres Strait Islander society that are relevant to classroom management. Like some of the other publications mentioned above, Shnukal advises teachers to encourage students to discuss differences between TSC and SAE structures and meanings.

Christine Turner’s article is “The Injinoo Home language Program: A positive community response to marginalisation and institutional racism” (Vol.25 no.1, 1997, pp.1-9). It describes the marginalisation of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia and how both groups have been disempowered and “constructed” as non-achievers. In reaction, the Injinoo community in North Queensland started their own Home Language Program, using Torres Strait Creole. [This program was described in PACE Newsletter 6, p.15.] The author points out (p.7):

It is important to look at the Injinoo Home Language Program in the context of power, identity and resistance; power in terms of the community taking control of education, and countering hegemonic control; identity and resistance being stated through the use of a language other than that of the majority [of the country].

Minority dialects in education

Language and Communication Enhancement for Two-way Education by Ian G. Malcolm (Edith Cowan University, 1995) is a report on a project conducted for the Australian government’s Department of Employment, Education and Training. The project was undertaken in response to demands from teachers and from indigenous students who speak Aboriginal English as their first language.

Aboriginal English (AE) is defined as a nonstandard (ie not codified) dialect of English spoken by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in Australia. It consists of a range of varieties, differing in systematic ways from Standard Australian English and used for distinctive speech acts, speech events and genres. It also serves as a marker of indigenous identity (p.19). The report gives the historical origins of AE, distinguishing it from pidgins and creoles, but showing some possible connections. The linguistic features of AE are outlined and the discourse and sociolinguistic features as well. Then its various functions are described.

This project promotes a particular type of bidialectal education as an appropriate basis for the education of speakers of AE. It involves “two way” or “both ways” education. This is described by the author as follows (p.39):

The emphasis in two-way schooling…is not simply advocation of bilingual schooling, but a desire for biculturalism. It is about a sharing of knowledge, and of the power linked in with that knowledge, both in terms of what is taught and how it is taught, as well as ensuring that Indigenous communities and parents have more control over what is happening in their children’s schools.

The aims of the project were (pp.13-14):

(1) To help teachers better to understand Aboriginal English and to see, through it, distinctively Indigenous ways of approaching experience and knowledge.
(2) To help teachers, through the principle of two-way education, to develop the capacity to provide learning experiences which exploit Indigenous ways of organising and expressing knowledge while also promoting the appropriate use of standard English as a second dialect by Indigenous learners.

The project involved two phases: (1) research including a literature survey, data gathering from interviews at 9 schools and analysis of the data; and (2) mentoring teachers, focussing on two intensive in-service courses for teachers from these schools. The outcomes were the development of two course modules, one on Aboriginal English and one on Bidialectal and Two-way Education. These will be offered in association with several different degrees at Edith Cowan University.

Two recent publications discuss African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in education.

The first is by William Labov: “Can reading failure be reversed: A linguistic approach to the question” in Literacy among African-American Youth edited by Vivian L. Gadsden & Daniel A. Wagner (Hampton Press, Cresskill, NJ, 1995), pp.39-68. Labov describes the general failure in teaching reading to African American children in inner-city schools and then reviews the history of research on AAVE that might be relevant to the problem. He starts off by looking at research up to the end of the 1970s and notes that despite earlier controversy, it was then generally agreed that AAVE had creole origins but has been gradually converging with (ie becoming more similar to) other dialects. Labov lists several differences between AAVE and standard classroom English (SCE) that might interfere with success in reading, and also discusses the underlying cultural conflict that may contribute to the problem.

Next, the author describes in detail the Bridge program, as described above in the article by John Rickford. Labov analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the Bridge program, both linguistic and sociolinguistic, and concludes that its approach “appears to be the most powerful way of attacking simultaneously the cultural and linguistic conflicts between AAVE and SCE” (p.56). The problem is that this approach is not suitable for ethnically mixed schools. He then makes some useful suggestions for language arts in the integrated classroom.

Finally, Labov reviews research since the 1980s which seems to question the creole origins of AAVE and to show that rather than converging with other dialects, AAVE is diverging from them. The educational consequences are that the conditions which have led to the problem of reading failure are getting worse, the need for programs such as Bridge is even clearer and the necessity of developing language arts in the integrated classroom is much greater.

This article is available on William Labov’s Web site:

“Unequal partnership: Sociolinguistics and the African American speech community” by John Russel Rickford appeared in Language and Society 26/2 (1997), pp.161-97). This article has the following starting point (p.161):

American quantitative sociolinguistics has, over the past quarter century, drawn substantially on data from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and the African American speech community for its descriptive, theoretical, and methodological development, but it has given relatively little back to that community in terms of representation or practical application.

After describing the particular contributions the African American community has made to linguistics and sociolinguistics, the author discusses what has been returned. Rickford says the community has been underserved by sociolinguists in several ways. First, very few African Americans have been brought into the field of linguistics. Second, the representation of the community in writings about it has been very negative because of the kinds of example chosen. Third, socio-linguists have done little to counteract the racial discrimination and injustice suffered by the community in the legal system and employment.

The focus, however, is on contributions (or the lack thereof) sociolinguists have made to the teaching of reading and the language arts in elementary (ie primary) schools. Rickford presents some grim statistics about the performance of African Americans in the school system. Then he describes some of the efforts sociolinguists have made to deal with the educational roots of these problems. These include documenting the systematicity of AAVE, rebutting misconceptions about the cognitive limitations of its use and noting the unfair disadvantages IQ tests pose for its speakers.

However, Rickford notes that sociolinguists could have done more in some areas, such as studying the use of “dialect readers”, as in the Bridge program (which he describes in detail), as a way of teaching reading to AAVE speakers. He proposes that sociolinguists give back more to the community and train our students to do the same – with all kinds of activities and not only those that draw on linguistic expertise. The concept of “service learning” is also mentioned – where community service is integrated into academic work. And there is some discussion of how theoretical and descriptive research can be used to help communities.

Finally, it is noted that researchers should be committed to ethics, advocacy and empowerment not only because “we owe it to the people whose data fuel our theories and descriptions” but also because “there are good things for us to do… [to] help us respond to the interests of our students and the needs of our field” (p.186).


In Melanesian Pidgin

An important new educational resource is the Melanesian Trust Awareness Packets Manual, published by the Melanesian Trust (with member organizations in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu). Written in the three dialects of Melanesian Pidgin, as well as in English and Motu, the book has questions for group discussion and other ideas for community awareness work. The topics covered are:

Development Education
Land registration Custom
Government Debt crisis
Law and order Logging
Mining Dynamite fishing
Racism West Papua
Kanaky Bougainville
Women and men Alcohol and drugs
Dumping AIDS

Available from: PNG Trust, PO Box 297, University, NCD, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.



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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