A new educational action plan focusing on ensuring Pacific learners and families reach their full potential was released in New Zealand this week.
The Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020-2030 responds to the feedback of Pacific communities from across the country and outlines the shifts they want to see in the education system.
Associate Minister for Education Jenny Salesa led a series of fono over the last 18 months and connected with just over 3,000 people to develop the plan.
"This action plan is a blueprint for transforming outcomes for Pacific learners and families and is a key part of our wellbeing programme.
"It will drive systemic change in and across the education system to support the education and wellbeing of our Pacific children and young people," Salesa said.
"Pacific students, educators, teachers and parents discussed experiences of racism and bullying and challenges to their wellbeing being impediments to their educational success."
The action plan guides education agencies to work collaboratively with Pacific communities over the next 10 years, and signals how early learning services, schools and tertiary providers can achieve change for Pacific learners and families.
There were five key shifts that were recognised by the Pacific communities in New Zealand:
1. Working reciprocally with diverse Pacific communities to respond to unmet needs, with an initial focus on needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic;
2. Confronting systematic racism and discrimination in education;
3. Enabling every teacher, leader, and education professional to take co-ordinated action to become culturally competent with diverse Pacific learners;
4. Partnering with families to design education opportunities together with teachers, leaders and educational professionals so aspirations for learning and employment can be met; and
5. Growing, retaining, and valuing highly competent teachers, leaders, and educational professionals of diverse Pacific heritages.
The action plan was supported by a government investment of $NZ27.4 million in last year's budget and a further $80.2 million in Budget 2020 to support Pacific learners and families.
Salesa said there had been work done towards addressing racism and discrimination such as using some of the $27.4 million to invest in a programme called 'Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities'.
"This programme utilises various ways of teaching mathematics to our students with things they know for example fala, ngatu, navigational things that they see and recognise for themselves," she said.
"It's actually a way of saying to our students that there are things from their culture that makes them good mathematicians."
Salesa said that in one of her consultations she had a year 10 Tongan student share her feedback on culture within schools.
"The student from South Auckland said to me, Minister, every year we celebrate Tongan language week, but what I would like is to celebrate my culture, who I am as a Tongan student, throughout the year. Can we have an education system that reflects that?"
The Ministry of Education currently have a cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners called Tapasā.
Tapasā is a tool designed to help improve the way teachers and leaders engage with Pacific learners, and to an extent parents, families and their communities.
Salesa said this was another example of helping address discrimination in education environments and teach teachers to be culturally competent.
The action plan is said to be a key pillar of a 30-year vision for education in New Zealand.