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Each student is unique

David Faavae explains that with in the changing Tongan culture that Tongan boys can be very different, each requiring a different approach when working with them as teachers.



My name’s David Faavae. I’m currently a PhD student at the University of Auckland. My research on Tongan boys involved from my own experiences as a Tongan student as well as the experiences as a Tongan teacher in the secondary school classroom. I was a secondary teacher for eight years, in a south Auckland secondary school and I used my experiences, I explored them in the master studies through the use of auto-ethnography, ethnography as a method. One of the most important things that I’d like to share with, with the teachers is the changing nature of of Tongan boys culture and the expectations of family. What may be the case for one Tongan boy in his family, will be different from another boy and his family and all of that depends on socio-economic status, it depends on their ethnic values, depends on language, their ethnic language. So there are a few factors that influence Tongan boys because we from what we know is that Tongan boys and their families the collective decision is what actually helps Tongan boys in terms of their education. And teachers need to be more aware that a Tongan boy, one Tongan boy in their class compared to another Tongan boy they can be very different in terms of their identities and the knowledge that they bring with them into the classroom.

One of the key key goals the Pasifika education plan is that all Pasifika students leave with at least NCEA level 2. That’s the minimum goal. And I think if we want more Pasifika students to achieve, there are three things I found from this study. Just evaluating my experiences, three things is that culture in itself is quite a changing concept. Which is why I suggested that that Tongan families are not all the same. And therefore, teachers should not treat all Tongan boys as though they are the same. They are different in certain ways and even between Tongan boys and other Pasifika boys there are differences. And what we often do in teaching is that we marginalise students. We, and I can remember a teacher saying this, “You Tongan boys are all the same, they’re all boisterous.” When, in fact, they’re not and how you teach and how you connect with the knowledge that one Tongan boy brings can be different to another. And it is about finding out what that capital is and whether is related to their cultural, ethnic values, for a Tongan boy who speaks the Tongan language there are connections to the traditional Tongan values. For a boy who doesn’t speak the language, the values are different. There are similarities in the values between those two boys, but there are differences. We’ve got to be, we’ve actually got to do a bit more inquiry into these boys and their families and what they bring with them in terms of the cultural capital and knowledge. And that’s the only way I think that we’ll be able to address the needs of Tongan boys and employ pedagogies that actually relate to their experiences and building on that with new information.