Growing number of enrolments for Pacific language classes

New Zealand's oldest Pacific education provider has had an increase in students enrolling to learn Pacific languages.

The Pasifika Education Centre (PEC) provides free language courses for Tongan, Samoan, Cook Islands, Fijian, Niuean and has recently trialled Rotuman. 

CEO Christine Nurminen says enrolment numbers have doubled over the last five years.

"In 2012 we had just over 400 students that were enrolled, now there's over 1600 students that we're engaging with exclusively around Pacific languages."

She says the increase is an indication that the language is being embraced and valued. 

"What we're seeing is that there's definitely a rise in demand from Pacific people wanting to learn about themselves and learning cultural practical skills."

Nurminen says there's a wide range of learners but the majority are between the ages of 20 and 40.

"Mums and dads are learning because of their children, partners are learning because they're married to someone who is Pacific and we're also getting a few people who are doing it because of work" she says.

"We have a class that's targeted at Tongans but some of the learners there are actually Samoan because they're in a blended Pacific household and that for us is quite exciting, that people are comfortable coming into a class and learning with a different community."

PRN reports last term PEC piloted a Rotuman class for 10 weeks, after it was requested by the Auckland Rotuman Fellowship.

Nurminen says it's given the small Rotuman community courage to make themselves known among other Pacific groups.

PEC's funding has been in question since the joint-venture with the Manukau Institute of Technology's Pasifika Centre.

Nurminen says maintaining their current funding is key but hopes it increases in the near future, to help support the growing demand for Pacific language classes. 

"Because we've done more classes to be responsive, we are mindful about what happens if we need more tutors," she says. "For the future we also want to be responsive to the people who can't come to Auckland for our classes. We want to offer something digitally."

She says they're still waiting for a decision from the government on what will happen to PEC's funding next year.