Pacific academics developing early Pacific history course
New online course on early-Pacific history being developed.
Academics in the Pacific are developing a new online course on early-Pacific history.
Dr Max Quanchi, a history lecturer at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, and a colleague are creating an undergraduate online course in pre-European history for tertiary institutions across the region.
He told Beverley Tse that most universities in the region focus on colonial history but do not offer courses in early-Pacific history preceding colonial times.
QUANCHI: We felt that it was important to balance the contemporary modern histories against the deep ancient histories of the Pacific. And students would miss out on a deep understanding of their own cultural construction unless they had access to this type of a course.
TSE: And why do you think such a course has been so limited in the Pacific, given that there are people who are still telling it orally?
QUANCHI: Oh, yeah. There's no shortage of stories and legends and myths and good solid information, good solid stories about where people came from and how they got to the villages where they now live and how their chiefly structures were developed and how marriage customs developed. All those things are quite well-understood and the histories of those sort of things are well-known. What we wanted to do was, apart from knowing all those Samoan stories they probably don't know the Tongan ones and the Fijian ones and they certainly don't know the Pohnpei and the Kosrae and the Gilbert and Ellice stories. So one of the little initiatives or the motivations for this was that Pacific Islanders doing this course in one location would be learning the history of Pacific Islanders in neighbouring locations. It was developing a sense of history of the whole region, in a sense. Now, up to this point, people are pretty happy, content, with knowing their own history. But I'd have to say, unfortunately, and we see this in our students at USP, they might have a pretty good understanding of their own Samoan history, Tongan history, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan, but they know very little about anyone else. So this course really addresses that idea of an ocean, of Oceania, of a history that parts of it are shared by people right across the region.
TSE: And what does it take to produce this online course?
QUANCHI: We're not really being very innovative here - we're stealing good ideas. This e-learning thing has already swept the world. So we've got a lot of templates and a lot of prototypes and a lot of exemplars that we can follow in terms of the design and construction. The difficulty for us is assembling all the people who are experts, scholarly experts, getting them all working on the same team. So there are people who are working on archaeology in Kiribati, but they might be located in Germany. There are people working on language development, they could be in New Zealand. There are people working in marriage customs and linguistic things, but they could be scattered all over. So it's gathering all those experts who work on the Pacific, but gathering them as a team.
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