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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Educational publishing

Educational publishing

The two major influences on secular educational publishing in Pacific Islands languages are migration from the Islands to New Zealand from the late 1960s onwards, and the dominant role of the Department (later Ministry) of Education from the late 1940s, through its School Publications Branch (corporatised in 1989 as Learning Media Ltd).

While New Zealand acquired the four Pacific Island territories of Cook Islands, Niue, Western Samoa and Tokelau between 1900 and 1926, there is no evidence so far of secular educational publications in their languages published in New Zealand before 1947, and this is an area for further research. Independence (for the first three) saw responsibility pass to the islands' own education departments, though recently New Zealand agencies have resumed production of some of their educational resources.

The School Publications Branch of the New Zealand Department of Education published resources in Samoan, Cook Islands Māori, Tokelauan, and Niuean for use in schools in the territories—but nothing, apparently, in Pukapukan (a second Cook Islands language).

While these publications ranged across the curriculum, most were reading resources—usually School Journal-like periodicals, often sharing part of their contents, in translation, with the School Journal. Towards the end they increasingly included material by indigenous writers. The titles of these journals were:

  • Samoan: Tusitala mo A'oga Samoa, 1947-54 (38 issues); split into Tusitala mo Vasega Laiti Samoa and Tusitala mo Vasega Tetele Samoa, both 1955-62 (21 issues of each).
  • Niuean: Tohi Tala ma e tau Aoga Niue, 1950-58 (26 issues); split into Tohi Tala ma e Fanau Ikiiki Niue, 1959-64 (12 issues) and Tohi Tala ma e Fanau Lalahi Niue, 1959-66 (13 issues).
  • Cook Islands Māori: Te Tuatua Apii o te Kuki Airani, 1950-66 (70 issues).
  • Tokelauan: Tala mo A'oga i Tokelau, 1951-58 (11 issues, those to 1954 being in Samoan, the then language of education; in 1954 Tokelauan appeared for the first time in print in this publication); Tuhi Tala mo Tamaiti, 1959-64 (5 issues).

Other government agencies also published educational material in these languages, including the departments of Island Territories, Māori and Island Affairs, and External Affairs. Many were actually produced by the Department of Education through its School Publications or Island Education units. One substantial output was the translation of nearly a dozen children's classics (e.g. Defoe's Robinson Crusoe) into Niuean in the 1960s and 1970s. A 1957 Unesco study, The New Zealand School Publications Branch, describes its activities to that time (see especially pp.28-30).

Major immigration by Pacific Islanders to New Zealand from the 1960s onwards (especially to Auckland and Wellington) led to a growing number of children of Pacific Island ancestry attending school in New Zealand and a dramatic shift in publishing patterns. The New Zealand Department of Education (a 'Ministry' after 1989) began publishing resources for New Zealand schools in five languages: Samoan, Cook Islands Māori, Tokelauan, Niuean, and Tongan. Virtually all these were initially for preschool and primary school use and mainly for recreational reading, but a trend towards material for secondary school levels and more formal instruction is developing, supported by Pacific Island language curricula (e.g. for Samoan, 1996).

School Publications Branch/Learning Media Ltd produced more than 200 items in the 20 years to 1996, and with increasing frequency—five publications during 1983; one publication every 12 days in 1996. It has also published books in Tuvaluan, Tokelauan, Samoan and Fijian for use in those islands. Major local use publications during this period included bilingual social studies resources in Cook Islands Māori, Samoan and Tokelauan and the Tupu series with accompanying cassettes. Up to 25 picture books (usually 8-16 pages) and five read-along cassettes are currently published annually in the Tupu series which began in 1988, most in five separate language editions. The stories are written by Pacific Island writers and feature the lives of Pacific Island children in both New Zealand cities and in the islands. All these publications are supplied free of charge to New Zealand schools.

Over the same period other publishers produced a further 100 items, including the only publications in Pukapukan (from Mataaliki Press) and the Pasifika Press series of dictionaries and/or language course books in Samoan, Cook Islands Māori and Tongan. A summary of this activity is described in Don Long's 1993 article 'Publishing in Pacific Island community languages for New Zealand schools'.

The Crown-owned Learning Media Ltd is the most prolific publisher of educational materials in Pacific Island languages through its contracts with the Ministry of Education, and arrangements with education departments in Samoa, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu. This very active publishing role of the Ministry contrasts with similar agencies in Australia and America. In 1997 Learning Media Ltd produced A Guide to the Pacific Learning Material 1976-96, a guide to the Ministry's Pacific publications.

Other publishers of resources (particularly in Samoan) include Anau Ako Pasifika, Pasifika Press (formerly Polynesian Press), Penguin (in its Puffin Books), and Scholastic (formerly Ashton Scholastic). The most prolific after the Ministry is PIERC Education (formerly the Pacific Islanders' Educational Resource Centre) in Auckland and WMERC Inc. (formerly the Wellington Multicultural Educational Resource Centre). Catalogues are generally available from these publishers. Preschool groups, especially in Samoan, and other small publishers are also becoming established.

A specialist Auckland bookshop Books Pasifika (formerly Polynesian Bookshop) provides libraries and other purchasers with catalogues and a means of acquiring material which would otherwise be difficult to locate.

The New Zealand and Tokelauan national bibliographies both include educational publications, though the former has very limited coverage for the period to 1960.

A shift towards the more formal inclusion of Pacific Island languages within New Zealand education was indicated in the 1993 New Zealand Curriculum Framework and followed through into the Samoan curriculum published in 1996. This approach results from the growing percentage of school-age children with Pacific Island ancestry, and the desire of their parents for their children to receive a bilingual education, or at least the teaching of their own languages at school. (As reported by Kerslake and Bennie in their 1990 Survey of the Needs for Resources in Pacific Islands Languages and the MRL Research Group's research report, Maori and Pacific Island Language Demand for Educational Services, 1995.)

Educational publishing will continue to develop in this direction. The Ministry of Education plans to continue to play a strong role, together with other general educational publishers and specialist smaller Pacific Island language publishers.