Our haumana and staff represent an array of cultures and languages. Roughly 8 percent, or 15,000 public school students, have been identified as English Learners (EL). The video above shows the eclectic mix of student voices we must help amplify through our Department’s multilingual efforts.
When students’ identities, histories, cultures, and languages are woven into their educational experience, they build a stronger connection to the curriculum, engage on a new level and contribute to the learning environment. This commitment to honor our keiki and their ohana’s home language bring Nā Hopena A‘o to life in our schools. This is why I’m excited for our upcoming inaugural multilingualism symposium, “Our Languages, Our Future,” on March 2 at Farrington High School.
The purpose of this fully booked conference is to foster collaboration across each level of the Department and create a dialogue around how we can continue to innovate and move this important work forward. Attendees will hear from keynote speaker Dr. Aída Walqui, director, WestEd Teacher Professional Development, who will introduce five principles that guide quality learning for language learners and how to prepare them for a complex future. The conference will also feature breakout sessions by presenters from schools, universities and the community that will highlight innovative classroom and school practices to structure and sustain opportunities to incorporate students’ languages and cultures into the classroom. Mahalo to our Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design and Office of Student Services for co-sponsoring this event.
HIDOE, with policy support from our Board of Education, has made tremendous strides in multilingualism in education with the adoption and implementation of several language policies: a revised Ka Papahana Kaiapuni (2014), Seal of Biliteracy (2015) and Multilingualism for Equitable Education (2016). We must continue to build upon this work.
This school year we are focused on strengthening our statewide EL Program to support HIDOE’s mission by providing a standards-based education through supplementary instructional and acculturation activities. Students identified as EL must be encouraged to continue developing their home language while learning English, which provides benefits such as gaining content knowledge in familiar languages, a greater proficiency in multiple languages and an affirmation of student identity.
For students who want to learn an additional language, the Department’s World Languages Program consists of instruction in 11 languages including American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German, Hawaiian, Ilokano, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Samoan, and Spanish, at the elementary and secondary school levels — many of which are heritage languages for our students. In addition to enabling students to be college, career, and community ready in a global society, these classes allow students to establish an educational culture that recognizes and values the wealth of linguistic and cultural diversity of their surroundings.
As new technologies continue to open doors across the world, multilingualism and multiculturalism has rapidly grown in importance. The study of world languages and the celebration of cultural diversity enables students to communicate, and prepares them to become contributing global citizens.