Waiau Elementary School

Hawaiian Immersion Education

Hawai‘i is the only state that recognizes an indigenous language as one of its official languages. Despite this, the population has been steadily losing proficiency in the use of Hawaiian along with many aspects of the Hawaiian culture.

In 1987, the Department of Education established a pilot Hawaiian language immersion program at two public schools, Waiau being one site. The program has since grown to about 1,800 students in grades kindergarten to grade 12, in 19 schools on five islands and employs more than 100 teachers.

Ka Papahana Kaiapuni provides the instruction and experiences which lead to the achievement of the DOE’s Standards through the medium of the Hawaiian language. The program offers unique content and perspectives made possible by establishing Hawaiian as the language and culture of instruction. The students also develop a high level of self-esteem as perpetuators of the native language of this ‘āina and of the cultural heritage of the indigenous Hawaiian people through their native language.

“He ola mau nō ka pono o ka lāhui kanaka i ka na‘auao Hawai‘i.”


Research shows that bilingual students have higher metacognition (thinking skills) and cognitive flexibility than those that speak only one language.