Asian children under 5

A recent report, Starting Strong, is about the challenge of maintaining cultural knowledge and language skills of Asian children living in New Zealand. The report also examines the role of Early Childhood Education (ECE) on these children.

Now, in 2017, 18% of New Zealand children under the age of 5, are of Asian ethnicity. A higher proportion of Asian children live in Auckland but the percentage is growing rapidly throughout New Zealand. Nine out of ten of those Asian children were born in New Zealand.

In fact, one in five babies born in New Zealand in 2017 has an Asian parent. Chinese and Indian are first equal in Asian ethnicity with Filipino, Japanese and then Korean following. Increasingly, we have more people from minor Asian ethnicities living in New Zealand.

For ECE, this makes it impossible to use the home language although some do employ bilingual teachers. They can play an important role in communicating with parents or helping small children who do not understand any English.

Parents say that they want the ECE centre to use English to prepare the children for school. They believe it is the job of the home to foster the first language and culture. Grandparents can help to do this and in some cities, first language classes in weekends or after school can also help.

Most parents believe that first language skills and cultural knowledge are important for a child’s identity. It is also important for New Zealand so that in the future, when these children are adults, they can help us to relate more closely to Asia.


• foster – care for, look after, encourage

Discussion Questions

1. What cultural knowledge is important for these children to learn? Is it different from New Zealand culture?
2. What are the benefits of being bilingual?
3. If you have had experience of visiting ECE centres in New Zealand, how is ECE in New Zealand different from ECE in some Asian countries?

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