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Pasifika Education Conference - Trevor Mallard

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes

Pasifika Education Conference

Kia Orana, Ni Sa Bula, Taloha ni, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Halo Olaketa, Ia Orana.
Kia Ora, Talofa Lava, Malo e lelei. Warm Pacific Greetings!

It is an honour and a pleasure to be here today.

I know my colleagues Winnie Laban and Mark Gosche have already addressed your conference.

As you may know, Winnie is not only a colleague in Parliament, but also in my local area of Wainuiomata. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge what an enormous contribution she makes in both places.

I know that when Mark talked to you yesterday, he not only talked to you about education, but he also spoke about some of the wider social policies of the new Government. In particular, I know that our policies on housing are very important to your community. I take a particular interest in these issues as well ¡V not only as a local MP for an electorate that has a high Pacific population, but also as the Education Minister.

Good housing is essential to good education. Children cannot learn properly if they are living in overcrowded, damp and cold homes. National's policies were severely lacking in this area. I have great faith in Mark and his ability to guide the policies through to fruition. I have had anecdotal reports from school principals that already the changes in housing seem to be making a difference to the issue of transiency.

Today I want to talk in more detail about education. In particular I want to outline the Pasifika Education Plan that we are announcing today.

First of all, can I say what a privilege it is to be Minister of Education.

In doing the job, I look to the example set by my forebear Peter Fraser. As the Labour Minister of Education from 1935 was the first Education Minister to seriously act on the view that every child, no matter what his or her background, should have access to a good education that would let them achieve their potential.

In this modern age, that philosophy has become even more crucial. People of my age (nearly 50) and older could almost get away without much of a formal education. There were plenty of jobs around that did not require a person being able to read and write, or have good numeracy skills.

Yet these days, to allow a young person to leave school illiterate is as good as condemning them to the dole queue for life.

Think of all the jobs that our generation could have done without a high level of education, that now require a much greater skill level ¡V especially with computers.

In the information age, Education is more crucial than ever before.

And in education, we must start off by recognising that the playing field is not even. A child's family background impacts greatly on how well they do in education. Just last week, results of a research report about children's competency were released. It shows that family income and the level of a mother's education has a significant impact on how well a child does in education.

Information like that is an obvious concern to communities where the income levels are at the lower end of the scale and where the education levels of parents are not as high as in other communities. This includes many Pacific families.

That is why, despite some political opposition, I will vigorously defend our policies to reduce disparity. I consider education to be a major tool for reducing disparities. I think the Pasifika education plan shows that this Government is willing to use the tool of education to the best effect.

It is also important to recognise that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. We must be bold in developing solutions that are going to provide all children with the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

These are long term solutions. We cannot expect results overnight, but I believe we have made a good start that will result in long term results.

Within the Pasifika Education Plan are the Government¡¦s goals and targets for Pacific education. The plan supports the capacity building approach - a partnership between Government, early childhood education services, schools, education providers and Pacific communities.

We need to increase Pacific achievement in all areas of education through increasing participation, improving retention and focusing on effective teaching strategies.

There are four main areas where government policy changes are most likely to achieve the goals set out in the plan. These are:

„X promoting more effective teaching with Pacific students;
„X improving English language proficiency for Pacific students to support student learning and effective teaching;
„X building capacity within Pacific communities to support effective teaching; and,
„X raising achievement levels.

Within these areas we will need to promote educational strategies that have a proven record of overcoming socio-economic disadvantage. We have to recognise the unique experiences, contexts and needs of Pacific peoples. And our initiatives aimed at reducing disparity and raising achievement have to be intensive and with a long-term focus.

The Pasifika Education Plan provides a strong link with the Pacific Capacity Building Programmes of Action underway in eight Pacific communities throughout the country. Together we need to work in partnership towards achieving a shared goal in the education of Pacific peoples, focusing on making sure Pacific children participate in early childhood education, have strong early foundations in language and literacy, and are ready to participate in early schooling.

A report on the implementation of the Pasifika Education Plan will be published annually and we will continue to find better ways of making sure the Pasifika Education Plan is appropriate and responsive to Pacific education aspirations.

I place a great importance on early childhood education. Ministers of Education under the previous government chose to delegate early childhood education to their associate Ministers. I think that it is so integral to the education sector, that I wanted to retain responsibility for the sector within my own office.

For Early Childhood Education, our focus within the Pasifika Education Plan is on increasing participation and improving the quality of Pacific ECE services.

Within that goal:

„h We want to recruit at least 400 extra three and four year olds into early childhood education services annually.
„h We want to license and charter at least 15 new Pacific ECE centres annually.
„h We want to increase the discretionary grants scheme
„h We want to increase opportunities for Pacific peoples to gain ECE qualifications by developing the Pacific ECE unit standards to be registered at level 7 on the New Zealand qualifications framework.

Already, a lot of work has been done towards achieving these goals. The Pasifika Education plan provides transparency for you to monitor us.

All communities in New Zealand must realise that quality early childhood education is vital for their children. It will give them a solid start in life and help them to make the most out of their future educational opportunities.

For Compulsory Education, our focus is on increasing achievement in early literacy and numeracy, attainment of school qualifications and reducing at-risk factors.

Within this we will work with Pacific families, students, communities, and schools to raise expectation for Pacific students' achievement.

It is crucial to the overall success of the Pasifika Education Plan that reduce the number of Pacific students leaving school with no qualifications and that we increase the number of students achieving at secondary school level.

There are a number of initiatives around this area that we have started, and can boost, to help us meet these goals. Initiatives like our study support centres and work we are doing to encourage effective teaching and school initiatives.

We must do more work with teachers to equip them with the skills to effectively teach Pacific students. And of course, we are constantly on the look out for your brightest and best students to encourage them into the teaching profession.

Above all, it is vital that Pacific communities are involved in the design and delivery of education for Pacific students.

AIMHI and SEMO are two examples of initiatives that have been successful. They are successes that would not have happened without the intense involvement of the Pacific communities in those areas.

For Tertiary Education the Pasifika Education Plan focuses on increasing participation and achievement, improving retention and encouraging higher levels of study.

Last year, Pacific students made up 4.5% of total students in tertiary education. By 2006, we want that number increased to more than 6% of tertiary enrolments and graduates. And we want a higher portion of those students to be studying at a degree or post graduate level.

In order to achieve that, we must first identify the barriers that are keeping your young people away.

This year, public tertiary institutions have been funded to improve their responsiveness to Pacific students. There is also a requirement on them to share ideas that work.

Within the plan, there are also sector wide goals aimed at success.

These are focused around our understanding that as a Government, we can't do it alone. In order for Pacific peoples to achieve in education, we must work in partnership at all levels.

I'd like to finish with this thought.

You are all participating in this occasion because you have a passion for improving educational outcomes for Pacific peoples.

I pledge to work with you to realise that dream.

But it is not only your people who will benefit. Society as a whole will gain. We will all benefit through better social, educational and economic outcomes for Pacific peoples.

Thank you.

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