Overcoming Challenges: Pacific students’ experiences of being resilient through tertiary education
The issue of raising Pasifika achievement levels in New Zealand has been at the forefront of Pasifika research as early as 1996 in the AIMHI report from the Ministry of Education. Nearly, 20 years on and the goal remains the same as Pasifika still underperform in education. In the last 19 years, there has been countless research in understanding the issue, with numerous identified areas of concern. However, so many areas need addressing that is can serve the purpose of perpetuating the problem by making it too large to solve. The structural, systemic issues still remain, the lack of Pasifika teachers and teachers that understand Pasifika still remain, the gap between home and school life still exist, as well as the lack of real leaders and governance in schools that want to make a difference to the education realties of Pasifika (Chu et al., 2013). This frustration has led to the rise of “strength based” approached to Pasifika education research in pursuit of solutions. With a focus on appreciating what works for Pasifika and trying to foster that success and replicate it. However, a gap remains, there has been little to no platform for the empowered Pasifika voice on the issue. The Pasifika person that “bucks” the trend and despite the countless education issues were resilient and fought for their educational success. This thesis provides a platform for this voice. This thesis reveals the stories of eight Pasifika postgraduate students (PPGS) that were deemed academic failures at secondary school. It focuses on their internal and external factors that facilitated their academic progress and resilience. This qualitative study was underpinned by appreciative inquiry as the theoretical framework and a Pacific methodology and method Talanoa. The participants were selected via snowball sampling technique and one on one Talanoa discussions were used to explore their stories. The main finding from the research identified that as the participant’s self-concepts changed so did their academic performance. The identified historical and recent education barriers were still present in both their education failure and success. However, through transferable success experiences, deep reflection, visualisation, and goal setting, enabled the participants to see a positive academic result before it eventuated. This helped the participants develop positive self-concepts and attitudes that facilitated their progress and resilience to overcome existing barriers and become successful postgraduate students.