COOK ISLANDS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM LAUDED

AVARUA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News/PINA, Jan. 8) - Schools throughout the Pacific Islands may eventually use a Ministry of Education learning program devised in the Cook Islands.

Te Araanga (The Awakening) is a second language-learning program that encourages student development through culture, language and drama.

It was officially launched at last year’s UNESCO Pacific Regional Conference of Experts on Arts and Education, attended by professional educators from throughout the Pacific.

A UNESCO report on the program will go to schools throughout the Pacific region in the hope that they will include some of its components in their education programs.

Te Araanga was devised by Cook Islands resident Paddy Walker within the Ministry of Education’s curriculum framework. It has been described as a showcase for Cook Islands initiative and innovative ideas.

Walker was asked to attend the high level meeting in Fiji because of her many years of work on the program through Rarotonga’s teachers training college and local schools.

She has also played a leading role in introducing after-school reading and drama programs to Rarotonga youngsters through the Pan Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association.

The program is culturally and linguistically based on ancient legends and is all totally Pacific Islands, said Walker.

"It is wonderful that the Cook Islands was the first country in the region to initiate something like this and I was simply overwhelmed at the recognition Te Araanga received at the meeting. All of the delegates were highly qualified professionals and they were all enthusiastic about the programme."

Walker said she "dreamed up"Te Araanga in 1990 as a means of enhancing the personal and educational development and growth of children. The initial concept grew, thanks to input from the then Secretary of Education, Tuingariki Short and Minister of Education Ngereteina Puna.

Walker said: "The then head of the Curriculum Department, Cecilia Kave, also had the vision to see what could be done and she was the catalyst to preparing the plans and activities for its implementation.

"I believed the content should be all Pacific and I wanted it to be rich in Cook Islands cultural background without the need to import information from other countries that would be irrelevant to our culture."

Walker describes Te Araanga as a holistic development, aimed at giving students a well-balanced education that doesn’t just emphasize the traditional sporting achievements.

"It’s exciting, because we are doing something that no-one else in the region has ever done before."

Maureen Goodwin, curriculum consultant with the Cook Islands Ministry of Culture, prepared the book about Te Araanga for the launch and Walker says she did a wonderful job.

The book describes the program’s objectives developing children’s ability for self expression and developing their understanding of their own cultural background, virtues and values, and the rights of the child.

It also aims to develop teacher competencies in enhancing childrens’ ability for self-expression physically, mentally and spiritually.

January 9, 2003

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