Pacific voices shaping the future of education

Issue: Volume 98, Number 21

Posted: 6 December 2019
Reference #: 1HA3dF

Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation is a series of conversations held across the country to help build the world’s best education system for our children and young people. These conversations have formed a series of ‘Voices’ reports, which Tukutuku Kōrero | Education Gazette has featured. In this issue we profile The voices of Pacific people.

The need for Pacific cultures, identities and languages to be acknowledged and valued in our education system, was one of the main messages to come from a series of fono conversations held between the Pacific community and the Ministry of Education.

To get people thinking about the future of education, we asked four questions:

1. If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

2. What does a successful student of the future look like to you

3. What will they need to know and be able to do?

4. What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?

For Pacific fono participation we also asked what we needed to focus on to make sure Pacific learners and their families are safe, valued and able to reach their aspirations.

In total, around 48,000 New Zealanders participated in the consultations – around 3,500 participants were of Pacific heritage and included educators, parents, children and young people, people with disabilities and the Pacific MVPFAFF1(external link) | LGBTQIA+ community. Over 13,000 comments were received from Pacific communities.

What we heard echoed the messages we had from other New Zealand communities – everyone wants their children to be successful and to contribute positively to New Zealand’s society. Pacific communities said that the education system needs to acknowledge and value Pacific cultures, identities and languages, and learner and family wellbeing. They made it clear that, for Pacific people, success is about the collective and that a child’s success is the success of the family. 

Pacific communities were upfront about racism and bullying being prevalent in our education system and that, as a priority, this issue needed to be addressed by the whole system. Examples of racism included incorrect pronunciation of names, surprise when Pacific students are smart, and the criticism of scholarships for our Pacific students. Pacific young people wanted to know how to deal with this when faced with it and want to see a more inclusive system.

We will use this information to shape our future education system. It has already added Pacific voices(external link) and perspectives to the NCEA Review, Tomorrow’s Schools programme, and Reform of Vocational Education (ROVE) as well as the Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, the Early Learning Strategic Plan and to other parts of the Education Work Programme. 

In addition, and importantly, it is informing and reshaping a new plan for all Pacific families in the education system, the Action Plan for Pacific Education. Pacific communities also shared that the way the Ministry of Education works with Pacific communities doesn’t always work, and we need to create more positive, reciprocal relationships. That’s why the Ministry went back out to Pacific communities in August to October this year to design the Action Plan together.  

1 M – Mahu (Hawaii/Tahiti); V – Vakasalewalewa (Fiji); P – Palopa (PNG); F – Fa’afafine (Samoan); A – ’Akava’ine (Cook Island); F – Fakaleiti (Tongan); F – Fakafifine (Niue)

“As Pacific students we acknowledge our culture as an important theme in our life … it is who we are, so if our learning had something to do with our culture, our learning would become important to us all.”     

Youth, Oamaru fono, 2018
“The education system shouldn’t throw away our culture for academic success.”   

Youth, West Auckland fono, 2019
“[We need] to encourage the Pacific child to value their way of thinking… The Pacific child has a lot to offer, a lot to bring to the table that will make this country richer, abundant and vibrant with life.”    

Adult, Dunedin fono, 2018

Fono feedback

“The education system shouldn’t throw away our culture for academic success.” Youth, West Auckland fono, 2019

“[Success is] when I cannot only look after my needs but contribute to meeting the needs of others.” Youth, Dunedin fono, 2018

“Racism is rife in the education system in New Zealand. Let’s call it what it is.” Adult, Hamilton fono, 2018

“We all have different strengths; if education looked for those strengths, there would be fewer dropouts.” Youth, West Auckland fono, 2018

“[Pacific] children and young people have many worlds that they have to walk in, e.g. Pasifika world, the world at school, the world of a New Zealander.” Adult, Porirua fono, 2018

“It’s about my parents and family being included in my education. It must be a safe place otherwise I won’t bring my parents or family in. The system prevents them from coming in.” Youth, Lower Hutt fono, 2018

“I think the system is failing our Pacific children, not our children failing in their education.” Adult, Auckland Niue fono, 2018

“Stop institutional racism and bias! We as Pacific are successful; value us and our children.” Adult, West Auckland fono, 2018

“Please listen to me, allow me to use my language, allow me to use my culture so I can grow up and prosper.” Youth, Porirua fono, 2018

“Streaming – most Pacific students are in the bottom classes and it ruins their mindsets.” Youth, West Auckland fono, 2018

“My sexuality is not what casts me out but makes me stand out.” Youth, Auckland LGBTQIA+ fono, 2018

Support all teachers. All teachers need to be LGBTQIA friendly and support.” Youth, Auckland LGBTQIA+ fono, 2018

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:40 am, 6 December 2019

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