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Pasifika educators criticise Government direction

For Immediate Release

19 August 2013

Pasifika educators criticise Government direction

Pasifika education leaders were united last weekend in condemning Government economic and educational policy when they spoke at a big Pasifika Education conference in Auckland. The three keynote speakers called for a more inclusive economic policy, more money and resources for Pasifika education and the promotion of Pasifika influence within the education sector.

Speaking at the “Lalga: Weaving of Success” fono, keynote speakers Dr. Diane Mara, Professor Toeolesulusulu Salesa and Efeso Collins, all pointed to growing poverty within the Pasifika community and its negative impacts on educational achievement. Noted researcher Dr Mara, pointed to rising levels of Pasifika unemployment and reduced income levels across the community. Professor Salesa produced research which described Pasifika parents as working longer, often in multiple jobs, but earning less. He then pointed to OECD research that showed socio-economic status as the greatest predictor of educational achievement, especially in New Zealand. “In New Zealand”, said Professor Salesa, “education has become a tool that translates poverty into restricted opportunity and underperformance.”

Doctor Mara called for a redistribution of wealth to Pasifika communities, both at an economic level and in the resourcing of education. “Our parents and grandparents helped build this country. They came here and did the jobs others wouldn’t. Now it’s time to pay back,” she said to applause. She then made reference to how Government had recently withdrawn funding from Pacific language resourcing.

All three speakers called for schooling that valued the difference that Pasifika students bring. Professor Salesa described how the special talents of Pacific Islands rugby players had been snapped up enthusiastically, helping create a new style and much stronger national game. He called on other areas of society, including education, to similarly embrace Pasifika perspectives.

Both Professor Salesa and Efeso Collins described national standards as narrow and favouring some communities over others, while all three speakers expressed opposition to Charter schools which will take resource away from poor communities.

Mr Collins who lectures in Education at The University of Auckland, presented research that showed Pasifika students achieved better when they were able to work collaboratively to solve problems, rather than operate in an environment which was individualistic and competitive. He decried trends in education that would devalue the co-operative and collaborative inclinations of these students and discourage their languages.

Dr Mara called for greater representation of Pasifika parents on Boards of Trustees and for Boards to prioritise the needs of Pasifika children. She criticised “tick-box” consultation when the Ministry of Education engaged with Pasifika and was unsurprised at a recently released State Services Commission report damning M.O.E. consultation as inadequate.

The Fono, held in Auckland was attended by over 200 leading Pasifika educators and is planned to become a national event in 2014.


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