Set the Foundation

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By The Office of Hawaiian Education

When a student attends a public school in Hawaiʻi, what might they see and experience that is unique to these islands? What might they hear that tells them Hawaiʻi is their home? And when those students leave their classrooms for the last time, what do we as educators want them to walk away knowing, believing, and living? Hawaiʻi is more than a place on a map. For centuries, the ecosystem of culture, ʻāina, value systems and kānaka’s responsibility to each provided the optimal environment for innovation, communal relationships, and abundance. In honoring the teachings of our ancestors and striving to provide ideal learning environments for keiki, the Office of Hawaiian Education in the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) believes that “ʻO Hawaiʻi ke kahua o ka hoʻonaʻauao,” Hawaiʻi is the foundation of education. Thus, the office works to set that foundation for education in Hawaiʻi to be grounded in Hawaiʻi.

In February 2015, the Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE) was established under the Office of the Superintendent, creating a space from which to shepherd Hawaiʻi State Board of Education (BOE) policies pertaining to Hawaiian Education. The scope of work for OHE is to facilitate the implementation of three strategic priorities: Nā Hopena Aʻo, the Hawaiian Studies Program and Ka Papahana Kaiapuni, the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program. Also, Hawaiian education in the HIDOE has the support of federal funding through Mohala i ke Aʻo, a project targeting the improvement of academic success for Native Hawaiian children. Together, these priorities help strengthen the foundation for education through a Hawaiʻi lens.

Located within an arena that has historically been the root of cultural and linguistic trauma for Native Hawaiians, OHE strives to return aloha ʻāina to the educational environment. OHE works toward normalizing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and establishing a bilingual system by providing Hawaiian language medium instruction and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi professional development for all DOE employees. The office has also developed frameworks to establish a learning environment grounded in ʻike Hawaiʻi.

Therefore, by adhering to the belief that an education system grounded in Hawaiian ways of knowing benefits all of Hawaiʻi, OHE faces the future of education with the hope that we may see a system embracing and actualizing aloha ʻāina as a philosophical and practical principle, for the purpose of securing a thriving environment for all learners rich in the culture and language of Hawaiʻi’s indigenous people.