Soso'o le fau i le fau: Exploring What Factors Contribute to Samoan Children’s Cultural and Language Security From the Aoga Amata to Samoan Primary Bilingual Classrooms in Aotearoa/New Zealand
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The study explored how culture is understood and practiced in Aoga Amata by teachers, parents and children, and achieved this by following the journeys and experiences of seven children (aged 4.11 years) from three Auckland based Aoga Amata and into their first three months transitioning experience into a Samoan bilingual unit. In this study, I used the term ‘fau’ to stand for culture and the Samoan proverb soso’o le fau i le fau, to signal the transfer of culture between the two education sites. Notably, while reports indicate the fau has been at the heart of Aoga Amata since its inception in the 1980s, there has been no research on how this has been conceptualised or practiced. For this qualitative research, I carried out talanoa with seven Aoga Amata children, their seven parents and six teachers from both the Aoga Amata and the five Samoan bilingual units. Three of the children had a non-Samoan parent. Data was collected by talanoa, centre and classroom observations and by reviews of children’s learning portfolios. The views of all of the parents and teachers was that the fau comprised aganuu and gagana, overarched by spirituality. Aoga amata teachers said they acknowledged and welcomed the fau children brought from their homes, and used this as the foundation for their teaching and as the basis for further learning. Language was important as an identity marker especially for non-Samoan speaking parents. However, for all participants, being able to speak Samoan was not sufficient without an understanding of the aganuu. While the bilingual teachers shared these views, they also had a duty to ensure children achieved national language standards. In effect, bilingual teachers experienced a ‘double-programming’ workload wherein the fau had little formal recognition or resource support because New Zealand does not have a bilingual language policy. The lack of assessment of the fau led me to pilot an Aoga Amata assessment tool, the Faafulu, which gives prominence to the children’s voice. While this research has highlighted the robustness of the fau today and its transition between the two educational settings, areas of vulnerability and suggestions for addressing this are noted.