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The social construction of urban Fijian childhoods: literacy teaching, Waka readers and children’s lives

Abstract

The article draws on the elements of poststructural theory to explore the mismatches and alignments in language and literacy teaching discourses in urban Fijian primary schools. More specifically, it compares the liberal progressivism of whole language and literacy pedagogies with the culturalism that informs a key reading resource in the teaching of literacy and language. The constitution of urban Fijian childhoods emerging from these two major discourses is then compared with several cohorts of urban Fijian children’s own accounts of their lives. Major discursive mismatches and alignments between these discourses and the children’s own expressed life ways are noted. Where alignments exist between sets of discourses, children’s language and literacy development are more likely facilitated. However, where mismatches occur, there are implications not only for children’s effective language and literacy learning but also for more equitable access to language and literacy pedagogies for all Fijian children.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. The word ‘Fijian’ is used in this article to refer to nation and nationality and is inclusive of ethnic difference. When an ethnic distinction needs to be made ‘indigenous Fijian’ and ‘Indo-Fijian’ are used, for example, when referring to children, specific cultural practices, language and so on. Ethnic distinctions through naming have long been contentious in Fiji. The recent military government authored People’s Charter (Fiji Government 2008b) advocates the use of ‘I-Taukei’ and ‘Fijian Indians’ for indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, respectively.

  2. As opposed to empirical discourse analysis at the word level. See also McHoul and Luke (1989) and Kamler (1997).

  3. Since 1997, this organisation has been known as the Secretariat for the Pacific Community.

  4. Mrs Samasoni, unlike ‘nice’ Miss Cunningham the Peace Corp volunteer from the United States, ‘has a sea-urchin tongue’ and ‘drinks children’s tears’. However, the children in her Class Four know that she loves them more than Miss Cunningham because she teaches them the truth (Figiel 1996, p. 161 ff).

  5. These numbers are approximate and based on what was currently available at the IOE. Over the publishing period` a number of titles have been published in a variety of languages. It is likely that a greater variety of Hindi and Urdu readers than stated are in circulation in schools.

  6. These readers are not transliterations but in Hindi and Urdu script.

  7. Breadfruit.

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Burnett, G., Lingam, G.I. The social construction of urban Fijian childhoods: literacy teaching, Waka readers and children’s lives. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 14, 255–265 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-013-9244-2

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Keywords

  • Literacy
  • Fiji
  • Culturalism
  • Pedagogy
  • Children
  • Pacific