Being a professor at your respective field requires a lot of research output and publications.
That is the reaction of the newly appointed Professor of English and Applied Linguistics for the Faculty of Education (F.O.E.) at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S).
Letuimanu’asina Dr. Emma Kruse-Va’ai is the first professorial appointment in that Faculty.
It is a fact that almost every successful professorial appointment has a long story behind it. For Letuimanu’asina, it is an inspiring one given her wealth of knowledge as a writer and poet who has published many of her short stories and poems internationally and are part of the English curriculum for secondary schools.
Her early readers using Samoan based stories and illustrations have also been significant in promoting and encouraging reading for primary school children.
To get the children prepared at that early stage of their education development should be encouraged to address literacy challenges at the later stage, in this context, the tertiary level which is N.U.S. for instance.
“Being a professor in a faculty requires a greater research output and publications because that means we are addressing the issues that need research,” Letuimanu’asina said. “Addressing national problems like literacy is something we will be working together on the national literacy rates and how we can provide solutions; bring about improvements in the abilities and competencies of the children in the classroom both primary and secondary.”
Appointing her professorial support at the F.O.E. is a huge advantage to further enhance the skills, knowledge and attitudes of the training teachers so they are more accommodating to the national problems.
“Literacy is not the only challenge there is but it’s one of the issues that we have to address because it has been identified currently and we are also witnessing the fact that some of our students that come into our level really don’t have the language abilities that they should have post-secondary.”
“Then we think what is happening in primary and secondary, why aren’t the children coming out after Year 13 with a better competency in English and Samoan and that’s a question we have to ask and research to find the answers.”
“It’s very easy to generalize answers that teachers are bad but that isn’t true, there are many good teachers out there but there are also teachers who need support. It’s about trying to take away the generalized answers going into factual answers and situations where you need research to uncover,” she added.
“If you look at things in context you find out how many teachers in school who are struggling with English and explain why.”
“There is another question of do you really need to improve the English of Mathematic teachers and to see how they are faring whether they need to have English classes as well because our textbooks are often especially in the secondary level are in English,”
“So English plays a pivotal role in enabling the teaching of subjects especially in the secondary level because most of the textbooks and most of the content is in English, but it doesn’t mean to say that we are neglecting our Samoan. It’s just that we have to get our competencies in English that enable us to go further in education and also the language of commerce, business, and language of the world.”
With her professorial appointment now as an expert in Applied Linguistics, a lot of work needs to be justified as to how the language plays a pivotal in the teaching and learning approach at F.O.E.
Not just within the classrooms but how it is being used and understood by the industry.
For those who are not familiar with Applied Linguistics, it is concerned with practical issues involving language in the life of the community. The most important of these is the learning of second or foreign languages – and in this case it is English. Others include language policy, multilingualism, language education, the preservation and revival of endangered languages, and the assessment and treatment of language difficulties.
Other areas of interest include professional communication, for example, between doctors and their patients, between lawyers and their clients and in courtrooms, as well as other areas of institutional and cross-cultural communication ranging from the boardroom to the routines on an answer phone.
“There are new learning spaces now also; it’s not just in the classroom. Other learning spaces available are now in the technology; internet and we also have to teach our children in the classroom how to use those learning spaces safely and effectively for their development and in the training of our teachers.”
“It’s not that it’s not done yet, am not going to come in and bring in all these new things, they are current. Other faculty members are already working on it and I’ll just come in to support and enhance whatever way I can,” said Letuimanu’asina.
However, Samoan as a language is not being neglected. “It plays a very important role and that’s where my own interest extends via the applied linguistics because applied linguistics also enables me to look at the role and importance of Samoan in the development of the child, in the development of our graduates and it’s all very well to say that English is important but as you go the workplace and we’re not able to address people properly in Samoan and we are in Samoa.”
“Then we have to say that we have to know how to do the faatulima and address people properly in the Samoan way because those things are important in Samoa and we must acknowledge that they are important.”
“We don’t just say good morning sir, good morning madam, we don’t say that, we say faatalofa atu , malo le soifua lau afioga, they’re just greetings but they are also part of our own identity and environment.”
Letuimanu’asina has held both senior academic and management positions at N.U.S and the then Samoa Polytechnic. In 2005, both institutions merged and she has been Deputy Vice Chancellor since.
She holds a Phd in English from the University of New South Wales Sydney and BA Hons Dip TESL from Victoria University Wellington. She is also a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government Executive Programme for Leaders in Development, Harvard University and Management of Higher Education Institutes Programme, Galilee International Management Institute –Israel.
She was a recipient of the NZ Prime Minister Helen Clarke award for Emerging Women Leaders from the Pacific; and was also the 2014 Ian Gordon Fellow in Linguistics – Victoria University Wellington.
She represents the Pacific Region as a member of the Board of Governors and Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Learning. She is also on the Executive of the Samoa Association of Women Graduates and is a founding member of The Association of Teachers of English in Samoa.
“I think where ever you go you still have to do a bit of admin so I take some of the experience I’ve had here back to the academic environment. People still have to manage time, certain outputs, keep to the annual plans, achieve the goals for our strategic plan and all that work even though it’s still academic actually inputs into overall work of the university which is to become a premiere research university of Samoa to cater for the needs of the industry and work place, cater for the professions and that’s what we’re here for.”
First Professor in English and Applied Linguistics for Faculty of Education: Letuimanu’asina Dr. Emma Kruse-Vaai