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Culture Clash Cause Of Few Pacific Islands Grads

Classroom culture clash concerns Canterbury University’s Samoan PhD graduate

One of the few Samoan students to graduate with a PhD from the University of Canterbury, says the under-achievement of some Samoan high school students in New Zealand is the outcome of a culture which considers it disrespectful to question elders.

Silipa Silipa, who graduated yesterday (Tuesday) with the first ever doctorate in Education and Pacific studies conferred by Canterbury University, says many Samoan students are struggling because of a culture clash in the classroom.

His findings are based on a study of Samoan students at a Christchurch secondary school and discussions with high school principals.

Mr Silipa says many students are told by their parents not to question or challenge their elders and to respect their teachers, which can inhibit their participation in classroom discussions.

“The majority (of Samoan students) are silent, passive, not talking. Not inter-acting or not being questioning. It’s not part of their culture to dominate the conversation.

“It’s really a hard thing to do. So you try to sort of talk, but back home you are suppressed to question your parents and so forth. It’s contradicting in the mind.”

Mr Silipa wants teachers to recognise and understand this element of the Samoan culture, and not to assume that a student who does not take part in classroom discussions is not interested in learning.

“When the Samoan students don’t speak, the teachers concentrate on those who are articulate,” he says.

Mr Silipa’s degree was conferred yesterday morning, at the first of four graduation ceremonies to be held in the Christchurch Town Hall this week.

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