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Pasifika in New Zealand

After 60 years of migration, Pasifika languages continue to be used widely in Pasifika communities, not just by new migrants, but by families who have been here for two, three, or four generations.

A growing Pasifika influence is also becoming apparent in education. Did you know, for example, that the percentage of Pasifika students in New Zealand schools is predicted to double over the next 40 years? This means that learning to teach Pasifika students effectively is an increasingly important priority for New Zealand teachers.

What teachers know from research is that the more we support Pasifika students to develop their Pasifika (and other) languages alongside English in the classroom, the more likely it is that they will succeed academically. The way we teach is therefore the key determinant of Pasifika students’ success. This is just as true of students in the mainstream as it is of those learning in overtly bilingual contexts.

This section discusses the characteristics of Pasifika peoples in New Zealand, their languages and cultures, and how these can be drawn on in educating them. This discussion provides a basis for reflecting on our teaching practices, initiating action-research investigations, and making changes based on our findings to improve results for our Pasifika students and for all our students.   

What is meant by the word "Pasifika"?

Pasifika (sometimes spelt Pasefika) is the term used to describe Pacific Island migrants to New Zealand from Sāmoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and other smaller Pacific nations. Most of these Pacific nations were previously governed by New Zealand. Some, notably Niue and the Cook Islands, retain close administrative ties with New Zealand although they are now independent. Tokelau remains a dependent territory of New Zealand. For further information on the historical relationship between New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours, see the Ministry of Justice report The History of New Zealand’s Pacific Connection (2000).