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In recent years it has become a matter of orthodoxy that language programmes are necessary for children from poor homes and children from minority groups. One of the most influential of all programmes for pre-school children has been the one devised by Carl Bereiter and Siegfriend Engelmann (Bereiter and Engelmann, 1966; Bereiter, Engelmann, Osborn and Reidford, 1966). It was put into effect in what was called an "academic pre-school".
There are a number of children in New Zealand who, during their pre-school years regularly use a language other than English. They use it at home with their parents, and at play with their siblings and with many of their friends. When these children enter school at the age of five, they must use as a language for playing, for learning and for finding their way about their new school, a language in which they are both less familiar and less proficient than are their peers who are native speakers of English. Moreover English is for them a second best.
In recent years an increasing number of teachers have found the "Cioze Procedure" an asset in their reading programmes. Some use it for assessing the level of their students' reading comprehension; others have made diagnostic use of it, by examining unusual responses made by their pupils; others again have found it useful in determining the readability level of books and stories, as a basis for prescribing textbooks and generally matching a student with his book. In this connection the cloze procedure has much potential.
The value of speaking with a regional accent is something which is subject to fashion: today, an accent tends to be valued as a mark of individuality in an increasingly mono-cultural and stereotyped world, and it is no longer the goal of an 'educated' person to 'get rid of his accent as quickly and decently as possible. Certainly we have come a long way from the time when Arnold Wall, writing about New Zealand English in the 1930s, had to remind himself that 'young students whose speech left much to be desired (nonetheless) died gloriously on Gallipoli'.
In Christchurch the number of Pacific Island children is small, they live in every area of the city, from 'working class industrial' to 'middle-class suburban', and most are New Zealand-born Samoans. The families rarely shift and their children rarely change schools, at least between the ages of five and eight. Under such conditions it seems likely that any differences between their spoken English and that of native-English-speaking children will highlight difficulties, and might even provide some clues to the reasons for the difficulties.