A mainstream school in New Zealand is teaching India’s ancient language, Sanskrit, to it pupils to build their foundation for the English language.
Auckland-based Ficino School is New Zealand’s only mainstream school to not only teach the Indian language but also to be strongly influenced by Indian cultural and philosophical thinking.
“It is my view, that through the teaching of Sanskrit, the source language of: Latin, Greek, German, French and of course English, we give our children access to the very essence of language: An insider’s guide to the workings of language,” says the school principal, Peter Crompton.
Sanskrit with its “almost perfect grammatical system” provides children with a roadmap for understanding English, says Crompton. “We can all agree that English is definitely not the easiest of languages to get to grips with. To learn English grammar is extremely useful. It helps pupils write and read with increased precision and clarity. Certainly, this is something of use to students when they progress to secondary and tertiary study.
“Sanskrit not only gives young learners a clear understanding of the structure of language, it also heightens their awareness of the process of speech, creating a greater understanding of and ability to, enunciate words clearly.
Taking things ‘back to basics’, is not a new approach for Ficino, “and it works” says the principal. It is a practice we’ve followed since the school was founded in 1997, and is based on the curriculum developed by our sister school, the St James School in London.
“I am very proud of the success we’ve had with our own reading scheme. We’ve seen first hand the value of teaching Sanskrit, coupled with the use of the St James Reading Scheme in their first 2-3 years has had on accelerating a child’s reading ability. By age 8, many of our students are reading between 2-4 years above their chronological age, demonstrating significant added value.”
However, it’s not just the language that makes this school different. Here, the teachers move up year by year with their class. “This helps support the child with a good balance of love and discipline. The long term relationship forms a close and caring bond between teacher and pupil which is beneficial to learning,” says the school website.
“As time goes by, families tend to find that the teacher becomes a steady professional friend of the family. It is also more efficient as teachers do not need to spend the first few months of the year familiarising themselves with the children’s abilities and needs.”
Embracing the Indian cultural values, the school also offers meditation opportunities to students.
“Short periods of quiet time are offered daily in which youngsters over the age of 10 may meditate, contemplate, pray or quietly reflect accordingly.”
However, the school is not affiliated to a specific religion, though it “enjoys the support of the local community parish and hold services at St Barnabas Church.”
“The Christian religion is given particular prominence because Christianity is recognised as the basis of the culture of the nation we find ourselves in,” says the school.