Laures Park, Matua Takawaenga at NZEI, says the current way of focusing on Pasifika students often doesn’t deliver adequate outcomes.
“Both Pacific and Māori students have been stuck in that whole exercise of the discussion about raising achievement, and the holy thing with the education system here is ... wanting to raise achievement levels for Pasifika and Māori students.
“But actually, what happens is a whole different ball game,” she says.
Park explains that the Fono aimed to “focus on what’s necessary” and “give people some better examples of what could potentially happen for Pasifika students”.
“At the moment we have what we call a PEP, a 'Pasifika Education Plan' ... which includes increasing the number of students that are in early childhood ... which is great in itself, except when you’re thinking about increasing the numbers in early childhood, you’re not actually thinking about the quality of what is happening for those students,” she says.
Jason Swann, principal of Otahuhu Primary School, was one of the attendees at the Fono and says he enjoyed learning about and celebrating the achievements of Pasifika people.
“The biggest lesson for me personally, was celebrating the amazing feats that Pasifika people have achieved in the past and continue to achieve.
“I think that the Fono offered a smorgasbord of thought-provoking shared experiences from the keynote speakers through to the workshop presentations,” Swann says.
He hopes that other teachers who attended the Fono are able to apply their newfound knowledge to better work alongside their students.
“I would hope that all attendees would have a greater understanding of what Pasifika is and how to connect and achieve successful outcomes alongside Pasifika students, [and] that attendees would be inspired to aim high and continue to have high expectations and provide high value opportunities for our students to be innovative, explorative, problem solvers, inventors and influence their local environment and society.”
Swann, who has many Pasifika students enrolled at his school, says he has some advice for other teachers working with Pasifika students.
“Connect with them on multiple levels.
“Get to know them and what their interests are, their family make-up, what you have in common, as this will deepen the connection you have with each other,” he says.
“Bear in mind that a student’s success is seen as their family’s success and so there can be high stakes associated with what students do and achieve.
“Finally, have a sense of humour, laugh together and be happy for the joke to be on you. It shows that you are human, approachable and good fun!”