The Pacific Reference Group was established in April 2007 when ASB Community Trust (ASBCT) invited participants from a number of island groups to consider the challenge: what would it take to have at least one member of each Pasifika family in tertiary education by 2015?
Participants at the first education fono, held at the Ponsonby offices of ASB Community Trust, were sourced from ASBCT's networks and included community leaders, educationalists and academics, as well as ASBCT's trustees and staff.
Those invited were selected based on their experience in education and on what they had achieved either in the formal sector, or in their communities. In inviting participants the Trust acknowledged that each was also part of a wider network bringing their personal, professional and community connections.
The proposition being addressed was identified as: that every Pasifika child achieve successfully at school at equal, or above, the current school population.
The group’s vision:
An empowered Pasifika community building Pasifika communities. We speak for ourselves
To prioritise Pasifika educational excellence.
That the full potential of Pacific children is not realised in education.
Strengthening partnerships to equip seamless learning within families and communities
Many studies have noted the difference that can be made in families and communities when a family member attends university or higher education. It is believed that when Pacific community families participate in tertiary education they make it possible for others to participate as well. Other members of the family and community can be inspired to follow in their footsteps.
Sustainable programmes connecting schools and communities
The reference group believes that involving Pacific community parents and families in the schooling of their children has high importance. Programmes that encourage parents to get involved in schools, including the ASB Maori and Polynesian Festival and similar, have formed the basis for discussions on how to get parents more actively connected to schools. Many in the Pacific Reference Group have commented on the need for Pacific community parents to understand how they might engage better with schools, especially the parent-teacher interviews. It has also been noted that mentoring programmes need to be in place for some length of time.
Successful transition from one educational setting to another
Mentoring programmes that encourage Pacific community young people to go on to further training have been fully endorsed by the reference group. It has been a tool highly valued by the group and seen as a positive way to help young people move from school to tertiary education. Mentoring can also help students wanting to do an apprenticeship, providing them with role models, academic support and goals-based mentoring.
Tertiary providers have excellent recruitment rates for Pacific community students, but many take longer to complete tertiary courses. Academic support programmes can be pivotal in their learning success at the tertiary level. Secondary schools are experiencing a similar issue with Pacific community students taking longer to complete NCEA levels. Programmes that both mentor and provide academic support are important and necessary for Pacific community students.
Programmes that enhance and encourage the identity of Pacific community students are a priority. There is great support for the learning and maintenance of Pacific language programmes, especially for Pacific community young people born in NZ. The reference group wants to see Pacific community young people who are secure in themselves and can participate in society, moving between two worlds.
Increasing community leadership capacity and capability in education
This includes upskilling and educating Pacific community parents who may consider tertiary education for their children; ensuring that community groups have the necessary resource and human capital to achieve their goals; encouraging Pacific community churches to develop youth involvement with their elders and the provision of family and education-based programmes and mentoring programmes.