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Muitas dúvidas e alguma apreensão ... Após 15 anos de ensino/investigação, trabalho directo com crianças e e professores, particular interesse pela realidade timorense - em observação, não me parece que a coisa seja assim tão simples ...
East Timor's two official languages are Tetum and Portuguese, but at least sixteen languages are spoken there. English and Bahasa Indonesia are also recognised as important working languages especially if East Timor is to develop its economy. Improving education and literacy is obviously the key, but East Timor's learning system is failing to keep children at school, especially in the early years. East Timor's former first lady, Australian-born Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, is Co-Chair of the National Education Commission and the Goodwill Ambassador for Education.
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speakers: Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, Co-Chair National Education Commission, and Goodwill Ambassador for Education
LAM: So in other words it's important for East Timorese children to master their own mother tongue before going on?
GUSMAO: Exactly, exactly and this is not another anti-Portuguese initiative, where children learn to read and write and have a solid foundation in their mother tongue. We know that they will acquire second, third, fourth and fifth languages with greater facility, and will speak and use those languages better and with greater proficiency in the future.
LAM: And from your observation do East Timorese children have the facility or indeed a leaning towards learning foreign languages, are they interested?
GUSMAO: It's a very interesting landscape there. Timorese people have a tremendous ability to acquire other languages, it's a polyglot society, so I think there is huge potential there in terms of being able to assist children to build really strong multicultural, multi-lingual society. But we need to make sure that we get it right in the early years of primary education.
LAM: I've also noted the importance placed on Chinese. Now I think many of our listeners are not aware that Chinese is actually spoken in albeit very small parts, but certainly spoken in East Timor?
GUSMAO: Yes that's right, there is a very strong Chinese presence and has been for a very long time in Timor Leste. I think for reasons of Timor Leste's place in the world it's very important that we consider whether or not Mandarin be spoken perhaps as an elective the secondary school years. The focus of the work that the National Education Commission is doing now though is very much on basic education, so that early years of education looking at what languages children should be taught in at the time that they acquire basic literacy skills. So when they learn to read and write.
LAM: And of course children can't learn to read and write without a full tummy so poverty alleviation is key to education, how are you doing on that front?
GUSMAO: Absolutely there's so many factors affecting how children learn and their physical wellbeing is an important one. The government with the help of the World Food Program has put in place a school feeding program, which does provide primary school age children with a meal. There are difficulties logistically with rolling that out across the country, but there are efforts being made in that regard. But obviously the long term solution is to provide jobs and provide economic opportunities for families to be able to feed their large families.