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Timorese children better at Indonesian than Portuguese

Dili Weekly - February 10, 2014

Paulina Quintao – The Monitoring and Advocacy Officer for Programs at the Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE), Joao Soares R. Pequinho, said language is a barrier to the quality of education in Timor-Leste and reality shows more children have greater command of the Indonesian language than of Portuguese.

TLCE Officer Joao Pequinho says language has become an obstacle for improving education in Timor-Leste and that children actually speak better Indonesian than Portuguese.

According Officer Pequinho this happens because the government has not invested enough to develop the two official languages of Timor-Leste, Tetun and Portuguese. "What's worse is teachers do not have a good understanding of the language [Portuguese] so students cannot understand them," he added.

He claims further the use of the Portuguese language in the teaching and learning process has become a national disaster, and if students cannot understand the teaching language the quality of education in the country will not improve.

Meanwhile Member of Parliament (MP) Ilda Maria da Conceicao, from Commission F (for Health, Culture, Education, Gender Equality and Veteran Affairs), said this happens because the national television broadcaster TVTL does not have suitable programming for children in the national languages. "They watch mostly Indonesian television so of course they understand Indonesian really well," said the MP.

She said also language is still an obstacle for improving the quality of education in Timor-Leste especially because schools do not force students to speak in Portuguese. "At homes also parents cannot teach them and practice is very important so children can master a language."

MP Conceicao urged the Ministry of Education to create education programs on TVTL so the children can increase their learning and to not just broadcast soap operas (telenovelas) that are not suitable for children.

Housewife, Agustina Fernandes, notes her children are more fluent in Indonesian than Portuguese and that is because they watch Indonesian television every day.

"We speak Tetun to them but they just reply in Indonesian. Even when they are out playing with their friends, they only speak Indonesian to one other."