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Duration: 9:44

This clip is from the Connections and Conversations DVD. The DVD and accompanying booklet can be ordered via email from orders@thechair.minedu.govt.nz or phone 0800 226 440. Quote Item number 11061.

This part considers the diversity within our groups of Pasifika students and their communities in terms of their identities, languages, experiences and aspirations.

Key content


Key content

Our communities and schools are becoming increasingly diverse – one particular trend is the significant increase in the Pasifika student population. Did you know 60% of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand were born in New Zealand?

Statistics New Zealand provides population information on Pasifika peoples. The Ministry publication ‘Pasifika peoples in New Zealand Education: A Statistical Snapshot 2004’ listed in the references also provides educational statistics for Pasifika peoples.

To order the Connections & Conversations booklet and DVD, item number 11061,
email orders@thechair.minedu.govt.nz or phone 0800 226 440.

Things to think about


Things to think about

We saw Pasifika students talking about themselves. What do you know about your Pasifika students? What questions would you ask about the backgrounds and origins of your Pasifika students?

What do you know about your Pasifika communities? What are your sources of information? How could you find out more?

What generalisations do you commonly hear about Pasifika students and parents?




I have like finally understood why my parents have come, like migrated to New Zealand. Like a better future for their off spring. And hopefully to live their dream to see that their child is a success.

We have been here for about six years now, we just came here in New Zealand two thousand. And the main purpose why we are here for is for my children, especially for my children for better education and better future.

I'd like to see my children grow as people who are strong, and standing up for their own rights, and doing the right thing. Living a life that is fulfilling for them, but also helps other people, it's not just about them.

There is absolutely no reason why our Pasifika kids can't do as well as anyone else.

When I leave school I want to go to Auckland University. I am planning on studying seven years in medicine.

I'm really looking forward to getting into carpentry to be a builder.

I want to go to university, and get a degree in law.

I really want to be a courier driver, cause I love meeting people. And I enjoy driving.

I'm thinking of doing engineering.

When I grow up I want to be an author.

A special effects make up artist.

When I leave school I'm not sure what I want to do.

Pacific Island students, they are like, something different. Like they are unique. Yeah. Like the extra spice to the school.

Voices and Identities

A lot of Pacific Island people have different faces, and like they have a face for outside their lives, and at home, church and all that yeah.

Everyday thousands of children of Pasifika descent make their way to school in New Zealand. Pasifika peoples are from the major island groups such as Sāmoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, as well as smaller groups such as Niue, Tokelau. Students may be New Zealand born, second or third generation, or recently arrived from the Islands. There are many commonalities between the nations of the Pacific yet at the same time Pasifika peoples are very diverse. There are many differences between protocols, traditions, generations, languages, life styles, and identities. In education it's important to understand and appreciate the unique individuality of Pasifika students. This may be assisted by getting to know students better as individuals.

Carol Jarett – Deputy Principal
What's a Pasifika student? What's a Tongan or a Samoan in a New Zealand school at the moment, we could be talking about someone who is third generation, their family has been in Auckland since the 1950s. We could be talking about someone who has just turned up from Apia in the last six months. We could be talking about someone who has parents who have different ethnic origins.

We could be talking about someone who is a very traditional church going family, we could be talking about someone, a family who has given it away. Pasifika people are just as complex as any other race. Perhaps one of the difficulties is being pigeon holed, and trying to put these people into a group and saying, hah, you're a Tongan, so this is the way you are going to be treated. Instead of saying well who are you.

Martin Year 13
I am Samoan, Cook Island Chinese, yeah. My parents, my father is from Sāmoa, and my mother is from Cook Island.

Alexandra Year 8
Well my mother she is Maori and my dad is from the Cook Islands, yeah. And well my grandparents, they are ministers, very religious. And they are Presbyterian. My little brother he is named after one our ancestors who was a chief, so my brother's unfortunately a chief (laughs). And well my little sister, she is named after my Grandmother.

Kalolo Year 6
My friends are Pacific Islanders, all around the Pacific. Tongan, some of them are....most of them are Samoans.

As with any group Pacific students bring with them unique skills and talents, interests, experiences and prior knowledge. Schools need to engage with these for effective teaching and learning. Getting to know what these individual skills and talents are is important for teachers.

Filiva'a Year 11
I am really passionate about my music. When I play soft I think about the sad moments. And then when I play hard and rough and all that, I like to think about what I've achieved in the past and all my good work I've done. What I want to be when I grow up is, I want to be the first Pacific Islander to play a solo with an orchestra.

Alexandra – Year 8
Everyone thinks we are naturals at sport but that doesn't go for all of us. And our English, our English might not be as good as Palagi students here, because we speak our own language at home. So that's one thing that is pretty hard for us.

In a general sense, the media highlights certain images of Pasifika people. These images can work to the advantage or disadvantage of certain students. It's important for teachers to be aware of assumptions and stereotypes they may have of students, so that their expectations are not limited to these images.

Glen Year 13
Some of the stereotypes are like....like Pacific Island people working in the factories. Like all us we are always promoted as sports stars, like we are never seen as academic people. And that the problems like I think Pacific Islanders, some Pacific Islanders, or most see this. LIke this is what we are supposed to do like, be sports players, or we are supposed to work in factories.

Diane Mara – Pacific Researcher
First of all teacher expectations will probably need to be widened in terms of, as I say getting to know whether the children's parents are NZ born, or are they born in the islands. Getting to know the children and also letting them show you what they are really good at.

Eugenie Hiliate – Economic and Business Studies Teacher
But now I think a lot of students here already walk into the classroom with that at the back of their minds. That stereotype has been engraved in some way. And so therefore they feel, do I need to live up to that reputation? Do I need to become that person? And is that the expectation?

Diane Mara – Pacific Researcher
I mean we do have that stereotype that you know all children, Pacific children can sing and play guitar and dance and all that sort of thing. A lot of them can, not all of them. But I think that's like, okay that is a skill they have, but you have to build on that in terms of their literacy and numeracy and things like that. So teachers have to be creative about that. They are going to be in the pōwhiri and in the welcoming parties, and they are going to do the ceremonials, but when you find out later that they are still struggling with their mathematics, I would have to ask teachers professionally what are you doing about that.

At home some families use a language other than English, and some families may use a mixture of English and Pasifika languages. Or they may use only English. Consequently our students come to school with a range of language abilities and fluencies. One of the challenges that this presents us as teachers is how do we factor this into our teaching? Do we see the Pasifika languages that some of our students bring as a barrier to their learning? Or is it seen as an asset? How can we find out more about the language characteristics of our students? And how might language impact student identity?

Michael Year 12
The language I use at home is Samoan, but other than that when my cousins come over, it completely changes, it's back to English.

Pese Pau - Parent
Before my older one came to McCauley she getting ashamed to come here because of the language. How can she meet the other...you know the other students in here. How can she face the teacher. Then I said to her all right I encourage her to come, just listen.

Josie Year 13
Yeah I do speak Samoan fluently at home. That is only because my grandparents have been you know bragging, you know when I die if you are the only one with me then you know you need to learn Samoan, you need to understand what I'm saying.

Carol Jarett – Deputy Principal
We should celebrate people that are bilingual, and I love the expression on a kid's face when they announce that, you know, Tongan is my first language.

I mainly speak English but I like to learn more about Cook Island and my Tahitian language. I reckon it would be really good to try to be able to speak it fluently.

Gabriellesisifo Makisi – Assistant HOD Social Sciences
The Pacific students I've taught fall into two groups. So there is New Zealand born and there is Island born. What I think you will find is that obviously the kids that are born in New Zealand have some level of Samoan or Tongan. But on the whole it's more that they understand, but they don't have much confidence in communicating.