HI - May 20, 2014 - The 'Aha Punana Leo's Hawaiian language nests
preschools have just been awarded the world's first accreditation
of an early education program conducted through an endangered and
indigenous language by the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education
Consortium (WINHEC). A distinguished review team of experts that included
international educators from countries with records of high academic
achievement in multiple languages, such as Scandinavia and New Zealand,
conducted the newly established process of accreditation for preschool
through high school. The accreditation serves as the base from which
WINHEC seeks to develop distinctive support for indigenous early education.
As the first in the world with this international accreditation, Hawai'i's
Punana Leo preschools are setting the bar for early childhood education
in indigenous languages around the globe.
The 'Aha Punana Leo's system of eleven Punana Leo preschools,
one infant-toddler program and a statewide administrative office
was evaluated in January based on indigenous education guidelines
under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples. In an initial report to the 'Aha Punana Leo, the review
team commended the 'Aha Punana Leo for the quality of its program
and urged it to increase its attention to its role as an international
leader and to continue to provide Hawaiian language education to
The self-study from the 'Aha Punana Leo highlighted the academic
advantages of early education through Hawaiian, including early
mastery of reading and the cognitive benefits of high bilingualism.
The review team was especially interested in how the Punana Leo
uses unique features of Hawaiian spelling that provides for a two-year
advantage in early literacy development of its preschoolers over
English language preschoolers.
The 'Aha Punana Leo's Executive Director, Ms. ?Ekekela Aiona,
is delighted with the announcement. "It is gratifying to receive
this accreditation that recognizes the quality and value of Hawaiian
language medium education. This is one step in the long process
of revitalizing the Hawaiian language and reestablishing high quality
distinctive Hawaiian language medium education." The next step is
to seek WINHEC accreditation recognition by the State of Hawai'i.
The goal is to expand and to include international WINHEC accreditation
recognition that is currently limited to regional mainstream English
language medium accreditation, resulting in support to Hawaiian
language medium preschools equal to that given to English medium
For 90 years the use of Hawaiian was illegal in schools. The
'Aha Punana Leo led the movement to remove that ban and has been
the primary private entity supporting the development of education
through Hawaiian from preschool on to the doctorate level. Language
revitalization programs worldwide widely recognize the 'Aha Punana
Leo as the model for education in an endangered and indigenous language
The 'Aha Punana Leo's unique family-based education program
serves as the foundation from which children enter Hawaiian immersion
schools, where students pursue a college preparatory curriculum
and often learn a third language in addition to English and Hawaiian.
Punana Leo is not only praised for the level of success their students
accomplish academically, but also for instilling intrinsic Hawaiian
values in their students that resonate within the family and out
to the wider community. The 'Aha Punana Leo is a member of a consortium
of internationally recognized schools, organizations and university
programs in Hawai'i dedicated to reestablishing Hawaiian as the
first and main language of the home.
To learn more about 'Aha Punana Leo, visit www.ahapunanaleo.org.
na Malu Debus
'Aha Punana Leo
96 Pu'uhonu Place
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-4304 x240 Kelepona (phone)
(808) 969-7512 Kelepa?i (fax)