Samoa Literacy and Numeracy Bilingual Books Workshop Strengthens Collaboration


Pacific cultures are intricately intertwined through the avenue of education.

Addressing attendees at the Samoa Literacy and Numeracy Bilingual Books Workshop organised by the Institute of Education (IoE), The University of the South Pacific (USP), Aeau Christopher Hazelman, Chief Executive Officer of Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports highlighted the importance of collaboration between the Ministry and the institution.

He drew attention to the shared cultural thread across the region, symbolised by the tapa cloth.

“We all share the same importance of the tapa cloth, and it is basically why the USP gowns are brown – because of the common theme and cultural identity around the region,” he said.

The CEO also emphasised the role of education in preserving and empowering local communities.

“Literacy and numeracy continue to be an issue for the work that we do in the ministry, and now we continue to look at the use of bilingual materials, and bilingualism is a key element of the work that we do in the ministry,” he said.

“As we look at our local literature, whether in literacy, numeracy, TVET, or digital platforms, we must understand that we are trying to look at the importance of education in preserving and empowering our local community. Education is empowering our young people, empowering the future of our country,” he said.

Acknowledging the challenges ahead, the CEO highlighted the importance of collaboration with regional partners.

“As part of the job we have in the Ministry, we have reached out to our friends in Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF), we have reached out to USP, the Institute of Education, so that we can continue to collaborate and enhance the use of bilingual materials, especially in the areas of literacy and numeracy,” he said.

Student support

Institute of Education Fellow in Literacy and Curriculum, Mrs ‘Ana Heti Veikune highlighted the Samoan proverb ‘Gau le tila tuu i Manono’ ‘s relevance in grounding the work at the writeshop.

“The use of the Samoan proverb to ground the work done here resonates with our idea of good, sound educational practice and give it to the experts, in this case, the officers and teachers in Samoa,” she said.

She said the workshop is a golden opportunity to engage with Samoa Ministry of Education and Culture officers, especially their curriculum development and professional development units.

“The development of curriculum-aligned, culturally relevant bilingual readers is a strategic activity to ensure teachers and students continue to access good resources for teaching and learning Gagana Samoa and English.”

“This writeshop has enabled the coming together of secondary, primary, ECE, TVET, and Inclusive Education officers to create bilingual readers across all levels of education. It is also an opportunity to learn from each other,” she said.

IoE Fellow in Research and Mathematics, Dr Teukava Finau, said as Samoa had few initiatives already in place and implemented in their system to support primary school teachers and students in numeracy, the big question raised during the workshop was ‘what else can we do’ to support students learning in numeracy.

“With the experience of the participants and what I have, we believe that producing hands-on numeracy bilingual resources can be a piece of the puzzle that may be added to support these initiatives and the learning of students in numeracy,” Dr Finau said.

“Throughout the workshop, I work closely with staff from the CDU division, teacher training division, and teacher appraisal division and share our ideas, expertise, and skills on developing hands-on activities for teachers to use.”

Positive Outcomes and Future Prospects

After three days of intensive collaboration, Dr Finau noted positive results from the participants.

“They can design and write simple bilingual activities with instruction/guides for teachers to use in the class with students. I have a positive feeling that, in this workshop, these staff members have a wider view of how to design and write student-based hands-on activities in bilingual language,” Dr Finau said.

Mrs Veikune added the bilingual materials for the children of Samoa, written by their experts in the language and curriculum, which had to be one of the best practices IoE could offer to ensure the resources gifted to children were the best for them.

These bilingual readers are being written and illustrated in Samoa and will be available on the Wakamoana Learning Hub.

The five-day workshop, funded by the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) and hosted by Samoa’s Ministry of Education and Culture at the Soifua A’oa’oina MESC Lifelong Learning Lab, will conclude today, February 23.

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