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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Punana Leo Accreditation On The Horizon
by press release

Establishing Standards for Early Education Through Indigenous Languages For The World

Hilo, Hi, February 4, 2014: The 'Aha Punana Leo, Language Nest Foundation, continues to make indigenous language education history. The organization has now opened a pathway for distinctive accreditation of indigenous early education across the globe through guidelines set by the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC).

The 'Aha Punana Leo's system of eleven Punana Leo preschools, one infant daycare program and State-wide Administrative office was evaluated last week in a new preschool through high school (P-12) accreditation standards based on indigenous education guidelines under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is the world's first indigenous accreditation for early education and the base from which WINHEC seeks to develop distinctive support for indigenous early education worldwide.

'Aha Punana Leo Executive Director, ?Ekekela Aiona, is very pleased with the outcome, "This accreditation is part of the long process of revitalizing the language and reestablishing high quality distinctive Hawaiian language medium education." Use of Hawaiian was illegal in schools for 90 years. The 'Aha Punana Leo lead the movement to remove that ban and has been the primary private entity supporting development of education through Hawaiian from preschool on to the doctorate level. This system is widely recognized for its success by language revitalization programs worldwide and serves as the model for education in an endangered and indigenous language revitalization movement.

The next step will be for the 'Aha Punana Leo to seek acceptance of WINHEC accreditation by the State of Hawai'i. The goal is to allow substitution of international WINHEC accreditation for regional U.S. English language medium accreditation, resulting in state financial support to Hawaiian language medium preschools equal to that given English medium preschools.

WINHEC began as an accrediting entity for higher education. In 2010, WINHEC moved from working in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada to accrediting indigenous higher education in the United States. The first WINHEC accreditation in the U.S. was the College of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo. The 'Aha Punana Leo provides a P-12 campus for the laboratory school of that college. When WINHEC decided to move into accrediting early childhood education, its international board was already familiar with the 'Aha Punana Leo and felt it would be an excellent initial program with which to implement the accreditation process.

For the recent groundbreaking early childhood education accreditation visit, a diverse and distinguished group of international educators were brought to Hawai'i. WINHEC's team included Dr. Timoti Karetu, of the Wananga O Aotearoa Maori University in New Zealand and Board Member of the Maori language Kohanga Reo preschools, Professor Asta Balto, Past President of the indigenous National State Sami University College of Norway, Dr. Ray Barnhardt, Professor and Director of the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and local Hawaiian educators Dr. Walter Kahumoku III, Director of the Public Education Support Division of the Kamehameha Schools and Dr. Kanoe Naone, CEO of INPEACE.

In an initial report to the 'Aha Punana Leo, the evaluation team commended the 'Aha Punana Leo for its work and urged it to increase its attention to its role as an international leader. The evaluation team will present its findings to the WINHEC board for its decision regarding the accreditation with final results of the evaluation visit available by the end of summer.

For information or to make a tax-deductible donation to the 'Aha Punana Leo, visit

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