Greater shift hoped for in NZ Pacific achievement rates
Achievement rates of Pacific students in tertiary education are not increasing as hoped, despite the growing number of Pacific students.
A Pacific academic at Auckland University says achievement rates for Pacific students are not increasing as hoped at tertiary level.
However, government figures show a higher proportion of Pacific people are studying at tertiary level compared to the general population.
Indira Moala has more.
Around 15 years ago, New Zealand's education ministry released the Pasifika Education Plan. It was a plan which aimed to increase participation, retention and achievement for Pacific students from early childhood through to tertiary level. But Professor Damon Salesa says despite the plan being implemented, Pacific achievement rates haven't changed.
DAMON SALESA: We have to acknowledge that the education system has been far more responsive to Pacific needs in the last 10 to15 years. And I think that's what's most disappointing. We would've thought that there would've been a greater shift in achievement rates.
Mr Salesa says most Pacific students come from low-decile schools and it's the common factors outside school which play a strong part in how well they achieve.
DAMON SALESA: They're facing not just educational challenges but social challenges. They're coming from poorer households. They're coming from less healthy households. They're overcrowded. So I think, for many of the issues we're facing, they can't just be solved in the classrooms.
The Tongan artist, John Vea, is at the end of his Masters Degree in Visual Arts. He says another issue for Pacific students is the struggle they have in becoming independent individuals in a large institution, after growing up in a collectivist culture.
JOHN VEA: That was something I had to learn or adapt to and I guess, I had to create our own collective within that institution. And so, inviting other Pacific and Maori - or just other minorities in general and just support each other. So doing things together, writing essays together, writing essays as a collective.
Despite the current trend, Helena Kaho graduated with Honours both in her Law and Arts conjoint degree and her Masters.
This year she became the first Pacific Islander academic on the staff of the University of Auckland's Law School. Ms Kaho believes having more Pacific academics on staff would encourage Pacific students to achieve.
HELENA KAHO: I think it makes a difference, to sit in a lecture and see somebody like you up there. When I was teaching Law and Society last semester, I would make an effort to put up some Pacific content where it was relevant. And I could see on my students' faces that it meant something to them.
Damon Salesa says that in order to improve the achievement rates of Pacific students, their needs to be more support within local communities and from other government departments.
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