Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

"They Always Have My Back: A Strengths-Based Approach to Understanding the Value(s) of Pasifika Brotherhoods in Education in Aotearoa New Zealand

Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

"They Always Have My Back: A Strengths-Based Approach to Understanding the Value(s) of Pasifika Brotherhoods in Education in Aotearoa New Zealand

Article excerpt

Pasifika Education

Three Strands of Literature

The Study

Implications

Concluding Comments

Acknowledgements

Note

References

Author Contact

In Aotearoa New Zealand (1), paths to the enhancement of Pasifika education, the education of students with links to Pacific Islands, have been subject to calls to improve relationships and target learners. Within the literature, some consideration has been paid to Pasifika peer-relationships, particularly "brotherhoods" among boys. This article examines what students in a single-sex boys' high school say about their brotherhood. Pasifika voice, theorised through va (relationality), provides an account of the importance of success as being accepted and of ways that this can intersect with success as resilience.

The argument acknowledges Pasifika relationality as a strength and suggests the importance of shaping contexts to minimise conflicts between different forms of success. This approach supports a holistic reading of Pasifika education in which reframed institutional practice can clear the path for Pasifika students to pursue their own success as Pasifika. By implication, the paper suggests the value of understanding diverse groups in their own terms, seeking to re-view educational encounters in multicultural situations. While this is not new, an additional pathway to understanding and supporting diverse student populations comes from encompassing group-based ethics where group identity is powerful in students' understandings of the world.

Pasifika Education

Aotearoa New Zealand is a bicultural nation in which the Treaty of Waitangi, signed between various Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown in 1840, has shaped the relationship between indigenous Maori and other groups (Orange, 2012). Among non-Maori who reside in Aotearoa New Zealand are people who have migrated from the many island nations of the Pacific.

Historically, members of the Pacific diaspora living in Aotearoa New Zealand were called Polynesian people (Tanielu & Johnson, 2013). However, various government bodies refer, for contextual reasons, to such migrant groups by other terms. These include Pacific peoples (Statistics New Zealand, 2014) and Pacific heritage/Pacific (Education Review Office, n.d.). The term P.I. (Pacific Islander) also has currency (Anae, 2005/2015), reflecting an ethnogenesis (Spoonley, 1988) as members of various Pacific Island groups in Aotearoa New Zealand marry, have children, or relate in other ways. In recent years, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has popularised the term Pasifika (Tanielu & Johnson, 2013) within education. The MoE uses Pasifika to refer to "those peoples who have migrated from Pacific nations and territories. It also refers to the New Zealand-based (and born) population, who identify as Pasifika, via ancestry or descent" (Airini, Mila-Schaaf, Coxon, Mara, & Sanga, 2010, p. 49).

Pasifika as a grouping in education is contested. An umbrella term such as Pasifika has relational, political, and historical resonance. This is because the "nature of Pasifika groups residing in New Zealand tends to reflect historical and colonial relationships New Zealand has had in the Pacific region" (Airini et al., 2010, p. 49), a consequence of colonialism and diaspora. Pasifika education is itself intercultural; Pasifika students are taught by a mostly Palagi (European origin) teaching force in a British-origin system.

As a "term of convenience" (Airini et al., 2010, p. 49), one may ask whose convenience Pasifika is serving in education. The Pasifika umbrella (Samu, 2006) carries the danger of aggregating diverse populations, and there have been calls for "ethnic-specific approaches, information and determination" in Pasifika educational research (Airini et al., 2010, p. 49). But disaggregation is not a silver bullet. As Airini et al. …

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