Pasifika succeeding as Pasifika

Written by Joseph Houghton
NZ Born of Pasifika and European descent


Following up on my previous piece, where I reflect on the impact that Polyfest can have on Pasifika education, this week I want to reflect on one way we can interpret the popular phrase “Pasifika succeeding as Pasifika”

Many government policies that concern Pasifika education in New Zealand promote the idea of “Pasifika succeeding as Pasifika”. Questions that arise in my mind are,

a.     What does this mean in the context of a New Zealand education system that greatly varies between Northland and Southland?

b.     How do they expect what is largely a Pakeha/Palagi teaching community to enable young Pasifika persons to succeed as themselves, whether they are ‘fresh off the boat’, or third generation born here?

The answer to both of these questions is that educational institutions need to firstly, look and listen, then secondly, learn and act.

How many schools can confidently say that they are connected to the culture, values and expertise of their Pacific communities? In my nearly ten years as an educator, I have seen some fantastic examples up and down the country. Many teachers, parents, senior managers and community members are working tirelessly to create environments that are conducive to the raising and strengthening of the next Pasifika generation. However, there is much work to be done. We are still battling a major deficit view of Māori and Pasifika students in our schools and the pathways and educational focus that we provide for them do not necessarily reflect their worldview or their strengths.

So how do we enable our young Pasifika people to succeed, confident in themselves?

Schools need to become spaces where dialogue and conversation occurs. A lot of students and families feel devalued in the education system. We need to ensure that there are staff who are dedicated to building bridges and making connections. We need to ensure that the students and their families are known to us and that we value what they can bring.


JOSEPH IS OF COOK ISLAND AND EUROPEAN DESCENT. HE IS CURRENTLY A SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER IN CHRISTCHURCH, WHERE HE HAS LIVED FOR HIS WHOLE LIFE. HIS JOB INVOLVES THE PASTORAL CARE OF MAORI AND PASIFIKA STUDENTS AT HIS SCHOOL, AS WELL AS TEACHING ENGLISH. HE HAS JUST COMPLETED HIS POSTGRADUATE DIPLOMA IN EDUCATION THOUGH MASSEY UNIVERSITY ON EDUCATIONAL ISSUES CONCERNING MAORI AND PASIFIKA STUDENTS AND HAS ASPIRATIONS OF STARTING HIS PHD IN THE NEAR FUTURE.