Once again the Federation of Pre-School Playgroups (FPSP) is very critical towards yet another Government Curriculum for Pre-Schools. After the success of our 1997-8 Supreme Court challenge of the 1997 Curriculum, we are now, back to square one with the 2010 Curriculum and subsequent policy.
This is particularly shocking because it means the Authorities have a very short institutional memory, scant respect for the Supreme Court, and seem oblivious to the new reality that has developed within official spheres over the past three years: the Kreol language is being taught to thousands of children in Primary Schools in written form, is taking enormous strides in the dynamic MIE Kreol Unit, is being studied at the University, has had its orthography and grammar pass through the Cabinet. Bhojpuri, too, is now taught during Hindi classes in primary schools.
This new Curriculum entitled ?National Curriculum Framework Pre-Primary, 3-5 Years? involves three institutions: the Ministry of Education, Culture (Sic) and Human Resources, ECCEA (Early Childhood Care and Education Authority) and, the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE). So, we can safely say it is the ?Government? curriculum.
Why is Playgroups opposed to this Curriculum?
Playgroups opposes this Curriculum for the following reasons:
(a) It contains absolutely no provision on the obligation to use the mother tongue and the language of the environment in Pre-schools. In the chapter on language, English, French and, possibly Hindi, are referred to as ?target languages.? The Government says in the document that ?language thus enhances the overall cognitive development of the child? (our emphasis). A more precise explanation would have been: ?the child?s natural language actually embodies the overall cognitive development of the child,? Language not only enhances our comprehension of the world, as the Government says, but it is actually the tool we use in order to understand the world. Suppressing this is a very serious matter.
(b) In 1997, for the very reason of the suppression of the mother tongue, the Federation of Pre-School Playgroups (FPSP) and 2 parents of young children hauled the then Government before the Supreme Court. And we won our case. Yet, this new document still refers to ?target languages? in the section entitled ?Home and Environmental Languages.?
(c) The 2010 Curriculum is in total confusion between the introduction of additional languages (French, English, an Oriental language), on the one hand, and the development of linguistic skills in the natural language of the child. This ongoing confusion between these two different issues is part of what constitutes the oppression of the mother-tongue. To take just one example: The MIE and ECCEA include a number of songs and poems in their Manual of Activities for Pre-Primary Educators (2013). All to their credit . However, there are 20 in French, 4 in English, 3 in Hindi, and ? just one in Kreol (and then it isn?t really even a song for children at all) and not a single one in Bhojpuri. Tabulated, this is what this means:
(d) This is truly outrageous. It is the complete suppression of the mother tongue. It is the beginning of training the totality of Mauritian children to rote-learn instead of developing cognitive processes. It is even in blatant contradiction with their own supposed position in the 2010 document. ?Children must, therefore, be given full opportunities (sic) to express their ideas and feelings freely in their environmental languages?. According to Government?s own official census, more than 90% of the population says that they usually speak either Kreol or Bhojpuri or both at home. But, what does one get? 4% and 0% songs and poems respectively, in these two languages.
The MIE, Playgroups, MGI, LPT, ABAIM have published dozens of songs, poems, jingles and nursery rhymes in Kreol and Bhojpuri. There are booklets and even recordings available. However, all these are all thoroughly ignored. The home languages of the near-totality of Mauritian children, the language of the environment of the entire nation, are thoroughly insulted by their marginalization and exclusion.
All studies throughout the world prove beyond all doubt that the mother tongue needs to be used as medium for 6 to 8 years at school (and that, excluding the Pre-school years). In addition, all the studies also make it abundantly clear that, before using, say, English or French as medium, children need to have studied these languages as ?subjects? at school for 6 to 8 years.
Only for music and Physical Education (PE) can, say, English and French be used as medium in Primary Schools, and this preferably after 3-4 years as a subject at Primary School.
(e) The mother tongue is essential, inter alia, for the following reasons:
(i) In order to show respect for the child, for the child?s parents, environment, and culture.
(ii) In order to show respect for human rights of the child and for Children?s Rights, for his right to access information and knowledge, and for his/her right to freedom of expression.
(iii) In order to avoid doing emotional harm or other psychological damage to the child by this willful disrespect for him/her.
(iv) In order to avoid doing serious harm to the child?s cognitive development.
(v) To ensure that no artificial barrier is put up to a child?s acquisition of content subjects. As we put it in our Supreme Court case, it is cruel to offer a child scientific knowledge on the condition that he or she first acquires a new language. It is also important to ensure that the suppression of the mother tongue in school and pre-school time does not prevent the child eventually acquiring the high level literacy that only mother-tongue based multi-lingual education gives.
(f) According to the latest Government Census, the mother tongue of over 80% of children is Mauritian Kreol.
Hence, Playgroups is denouncing the Ministry/ECCEA, the MIE for coming up with this Curriculum and this Manual of Activities that both separately and taken together represent an attack on the dignity and rights of the child.
We hereby make a formal request that the 2010 Curriculum be replaced at once by a new ?Guidelines to Pre-School Staff? in which the mother tongue, the language naturally spoken by children, takes a central place in all aspects of pre-school work.