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Implementing Language Policy for Education in Kosrae

Summary

The goal of this Partnership is to support the Kosrae Department of Education (KDOE) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) by providing KDOE with training and coaching support around bilingual education and policy implementation research as they design and implement an education language policy that better aligns to national standardized assessments and supports both the English and Kosraean languages.

KDOE leaders are interested in designing an education language policy that will lead to more consistency in student experiences across the island and ultimately improve student outcomes. This Partnership is intended to address the high-leverage need of preparing students for an uncertain global landscape in which English is increasingly necessary, while at the same time preserving Kosrae's unique linguistic and cultural heritage.

High-Leverage Need

Stakeholders in Kosrae have expressed concern about their students' academic achievement levels in English and math on the National Minimum Competency Test (NMCT), the only standardized test administered in the FSM in the K–12 system. During the 2016/17 school year, 59 percent of grade 6 students in Kosrae met or exceeded minimum competency benchmarks in English reading, and 47 percent met or exceeded math minimum competency benchmarks (Frederick, 2016). KDOE leaders have indicated that these achievement levels may be caused by a misalignment between the current language policy and best practices around supporting dual and multi-language students. Currently, although no official language policy is in place, KDOE generally follows a sequence in which Kosraean is the language of instruction in kindergarten through grade 2, switching to about 90 percent English language instruction beginning in grade 3. However, research points to the importance of using students' first language as the main language of instruction and gradually building up fluency in their second language (García, 2009; Cummins, 1979). In addition, stakeholders are concerned about preserving the Kosraean language.

REL Pacific Project Support

REL Pacific is supporting Partnership members as they develop a bilingual education policy by providing information on effective development and implementation processes. REL Pacific is providing KDOE with access to evidence-based language education models from the United States, the Pacific, and elsewhere, which focus on approaches to bilingualism where both a minority/local language and global language (such as English) are supported, especially in indigenous settings. REL Pacific is also providing KDOE with research on policy implementation, to continue to support them as they implement their new language policy.

As a result of this collaborative work, KDOE is expected to be able to critically review what strategies have worked elsewhere, adapt those models to their local needs, and develop and/or access the tools necessary to systematically implement the new policy.

Contact

Brad Rentz

Bradley Rentz provides research and consultation support for a variety of projects under the REL Pacific contract. Brad holds both a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and a B.A. in German and Linguistics from Marquette University. Contact Brad at brentz@mcrel.org. Contact Brad at brentz@mcrel.org or call 1.808.664.8179.

References

Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222–259.

Fredrick, M. (2016). FSM National Minimum Competency Standard-Based Test (NMCT) 2017: Reading and Mathematics Test. Pohnpei, FSM: National Department of Education.

García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st Century: a global perspective. Malden, MA.: Blackwell.