The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64
Language and Education
Language and Education.
The education of the islanders has been principally confined to religions teaching. Nothing else could have been expected, nor anything better imparted. Whilst, however, perfectly agreeing with what has already been done, I think that it will be found absolutely necessary to pay more attention to secular and industrial education, especially in those islands which have been christianized. The Melanesian Mission in Norfolk Island, and the Wesleyan training schools in Tonga and Fiji, combine the three;—an extension of this plan is alone required. I am quite certain that the missionaries will cordially assist in any matter connected with the welfare of the natives. Both secular education and industrial habits must be inculcated, and the more compulsory the system the better it will be for the natives. There should not be any hesitation in the course to be pursued The lazy habits of past generations have to be rooted out, and compulsory means are the most suitable for the work. Boys and girls should be compelled to attend the schools, and the Fijian Government should consider the advisability of establishing such schools hi every village. Public nurseries page 85 and public schools might well be combined. One great difficulty exists with regard to secular education. Each group of islands has not only its peculiar language, but in many instances distinct district dialects—the missionaries say, distinct languages. The Rev. H. Codrington, in one of his early lectures, remarks, "It is not that each island has its own language, but that there are many languages, mutually unintelligible, on one island. I have a little chart of a part of the New Hebrides—the Shepherd Islands, including Tisiko and Fate; there are twelve islands and thirteen tongues, mutually unintelligible."
Western Polynesia, however, possesses a greater diversity of language than Eastern or Central Polynesia, in consequence of having been populated not only by colonies of Asiatics and Papuan negroes, but also by many wanderers from Polynesia itself, driven westward by the trade winds. New Hebrides and the Solomon Islands contain many settlements of pure Polynesians. In Eastern and Central Polynesia the different dialects of the parent Malayan tongue are not so numerous. They must, however, rank as distinct languages in consequence of the missionary clergy having been compelled to erect them into that position. The Sandwich, Society, Cook's, Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian Islands have each their published Bibles, grammars, dictionaries, and vocabularies. Portions of the Scriptures have also been translated into some of the languages spoken in the following islands:—Marquesas, Caroline, Marshall, Gilbert, New Hebrides, Banks, Loyalty, New Caledonia groups. The Press has indeed aided Christianity in the Pacific.
Whether it is advisable to continue this bountiful supply of language is very doubtful. A population of little over a million does not require 25 or 30 different languages. It would be much better for the natives to learn one useful language, which could be used as a medium for imparting secular education, than the present numerous dialects of one or two parent tongues. One language is amply sufficient for Eastern, Central, and Northern Polynesia, another for Western Polynesia. In my opinion two languages are alone required—one founded upon a Malayan, the other upon a Papuan basis. The subject is very important, as the future work of Government in the Pacific will be much aided by such a simplification, for the cost of ruling the islands will be increased in proportion to the number of languages. It is also doubtful whether the English language is suitable to the tropics; the natives under our rule will pick it up, but it is much too harsh to become the popular language in Polynesia—French and Spanish are both more suitable. It would, however, be better for the English language to be taught than the numerous native languages which are at present being in a manner built up. Australia will contribute a largo number of English- page 86 speaking people to the population of the Pacific, and South-eastern Asia many Indian and Chinese. The necessity for having one language common to all, and easy of acquisition, is hence evident.