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Engaging Pasifika parents and communities

Resources, tools, and examples to help your school effectively engage with the Pasifika community.


A fia vave o’o lou va’a, alo na o oe, ae a fia tuli mamao le taunu’uga, tatou ‘alo’alo faatasi.

If you want your canoe to go fast, go alone; if you want to go further, let us go together.

Engaging with Pasifika

Community engagement is "meaningful, respectful partnership between schools and their parents, whānau, and communities ... focused on improving the educational experiences and successes for each child." (ERO, 2008).  It's one of the eight principles of the New Zealand Curriculum, and as such is part of what underpins all school curriculum decision making.

The Pasifika community is diverse – ethnically, generationally, economically, and in language use. Those schools which have taken these factors into account have increased their Pasifika parental and family involvement. Strong relationships and links between schools and Pasifika parents, families, and communities are more powerful when they are reciprocal and have a clear focus on student learning.

Engaging Pasifika parents and communities is as crucial for a school with one Pasifika student as it is for those schools with many. Parents and families of Pasifika learners have high expectations that the school will care about their children, and help them to learn and achieve. They want schools to be open and inclusive places and parents and families wish for teachers who not only believe in their children’s potential to learn, but are willing to help them to reach their potential and succeed.

Pasifika Education Plan (PEP)

One of the key messages of the Pasifika Education Plan (PEP) is that our education system "must work better for Pasifika learners". The PEP writes about a sense of connectedness and the importance of collective partnerships. There is an emphasis on engaging families, whānau and community. This translates into one of three goals in the PEP plan for schooling:

  1. Pasifika parents, families, and communities support and champion their children’s learning and achievements.
  2. Pasifika parents, families, and communities are better informed, more knowledgeable, and demanding consumers of education services.
  3. Pasifika parents, families, and communities engage with schools in supporting their children’s learning, including increasing the Pasifika capability of school Boards of Trustees.

Putting this into practice means that parents can:

  • share their own thoughts and ideas about what they do at home and in their community that could contribute to their child’s learning at school
  • receive practical advice from teachers on what they can do to help their child to achieve academically
  • understand the purpose in connecting with the school and its representatives, and do so with confidence.

Education Review Office, (2012). Improving Education outcomes for Pacific learners.

What helps Pasifika parents engage with their child's school?

Consulting with Pasifika parents has helped to identify a range of initiatives that help them to engage with schools. These include:

• a variety of communication methods, such as face-to-face communication, newsletters translated into first languages, telephone contact, and home-school communication notebooks

• more frequent contact about their children’s progress, especially when the school is celebrating their achievements

• meetings with other parents to discuss common interests, issues, and ways to help their children with learning

• formal home-school partnerships, especially those focused on literacy and numeracy and those that acknowledge and respect their children’s culture

• a homework centre at their child’s school, which helps to build parents’ own confidence in helping their child to learn

• information meetings, for example, about NCEA

• access to interpreters or community liaison people

• having a staff member as a key contact or liaison person for Pasifika families and a senior manager responsible for Pasifika students. 

from Gorinski, R., and Fraser, C. (2006) Literature review on the effective engagement of Pasifika parents and communities in education.

What could our school do?

Community engagement can take the form that suits your school community.  It can be as formal as the creation of school policy and procedures, or as informal as teachers regularly calling the parents of each Pasifika learner in their class, providing positive feedback to the parent, and asking the parents for any specific things they want the school to be aware of in terms of their child's learning.

The following pages provide tools, resources, and examples to help each school engage with the Pasifika community in a way that suits everyone best.

Further reading

NZC Update 10 – Engaging with families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds
This Update is designed to help teachers and school leaders to work more effectively with families and communities to improve students’ motivation, progress, and achievement.