Children in Fiji are much like children elsewhere in the world, in that, they contribute to, and have obligations to, the communities in which they live; and, when given the opportunity to, they have potential to learn and participate in a diverse range of activities in their everyday lives. However, as a consequence of being born in Fiji, a Majority World Country, much of Fijian children’s opportunities and experiences are unique to the context in which they live. Unfortunately, we know little about these children or their context. What we do know is that Fijian children are a heterogeneous group. They are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual. How these factors, and others, interact to influence development and create the daily experience of Fijian children, including participation in school life, remains much of a mystery. How disability influences these experiences even more so.
This study, through the use of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health - Child and Youth version (ICF-CY, World Health Organization, 2007) as an overarching conceptual framework, aims to demystify one critical area of Fijian children’s development; namely, the language factors that may influence a Fijian child’s educational outcomes. Through, firstly describing Fijian children’s multilingual oral language and literacy usage and proficiency in a range of contexts (home, school, community) at two critical junctures of their primary school journey (year 1 entry and after 3 years of English instruction); and, secondly describing the availability and accessibility of supportive services to help Fijian children on that journey, the author will work to achieve 8 aims.
Aim 1. To describe multilingual Fijian children’s spoken and written language use at school; and, to determine whether there are differences in language usage between children’s school year, geographic location, and home language.
Aim 2. To describe multilingual Fijian children’s spoken and written language proficiency at school as reported by children and teachers; and, to determine whether there are differences in language proficiency between children’s school year, geographic location, and home language.
Aim 3. To describe multilingual Fijian children’s speech, language and literacy proficiency during direct assessment in English; and, to determine whether there are differences in that proficiency between children’s school year, geographic location, and home language.
Aim 4. To determine the correspondence between direct assessment and reported (child, caregiver, teacher) measures of Fijian children’s speech, language and literacy proficiency in English.
Aim 5. To determine risk and protective factors for speech, language and literacy difficulties.
Aim 6. To determine the current and historical services available to support Fijian children’s multilingual oral language and early literacy development.
Aim 7. To determine facilitators and barriers to service development for people with speech, language, and communication needs in Fiji.
Aim 8. To describe the beliefs, attitudes and support for Fijian children with speech language and literacy needs as identified by members of the Fijian community.
To achieve these aims, two studies will be undertaken (each will generate a number of papers as outlined in tables 9 and 11). The studies will focus on recording four perspectives (children, caregivers, teachers, and community members) using mixed methods of investigation (quantitative and qualitative). Together both studies will create a more complete picture of the speech, language and literacy skills of Fijian children from the home context, gained within the classroom context, and applied within the broader community context. Study 1 (papers 1 to 4) will seek information from students, caregivers and educators about children’s multilingual speech, language and literacy skills in the educational context, in addition to, quantifying these skills, through direct assessment, upon school entry (year 1, age 6) and after three years of classroom-based English language instruction (year 4, age 9). Outcomes of study 1 will provide an overview of how Fijian children’s context influences their speech, language and literacy performance. Study 2 (papers 5 to 7) will look outside the educational context to provide a record of societal expectations of, and beliefs about, speech, language and literacy proficiency in Fiji. Investigations performed within study 2 will inform our understanding of current and historical Fijian practices concerning the community supports provided to Fijian children with a range of speech, language and literacy skills and outline the preferred methods for intervention with this population.
In achieving these aims, a profile of Fijian children’s speech, language and literacy skills will emerge, based on the framework of the ICF-CY (WHO, 2007). This profile will create a picture of Fijian children’s typical speech, language and literacy development expected at two critical points of entry into Fijian education: upon school entry, and three years later, when English language instruction changes from “second language instruction” to the “language of classroom instruction”. Additional data collection from the Fijian community, will inform how contextual factors influence these children’s skills and their subsequent educational outcomes. New data gained in these studies will add to the historical information on Fiji, its many languages and how the teaching of these is approached within the education system, as outlined in the following literature review of this proposal. Such an understanding will help to inform future teaching and clinical practices and Fijian education policy development.