Pacific Island families’ perceptions of the parental role in the learning process – in a high school setting
The New Zealand Ministry of Education has acknowledged the need for schools to work collaboratively with Pacific Island families so that parents can support their children to achieve positive academic outcomes. This study explored Pacific Island families’ perceptions of the parental role in the learning process within the context of a New Zealand high school where Pacific Island students were a minority. This study aimed to discover how Pacific Island parents and students perceived the communication process, both within the family and between home and school, so as to make informed recommendations to strengthen the role of Pacific parents in the learning of their children attending secondary school. A phenomenological qualitative design was employed, using focus groups and interviews. Participants were a group of seven Pacific Island parents and a group of 12 senior Pacific Island students. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model was used as a framework to analyse the data. Core values and beliefs which influenced the interaction between parents and their children, and how parents interacted with teachers, were identified. The study found that the parents believed in the importance of education as a means of achieving economic security and urged their children to work hard. They valued relationships with teachers so that they could work with them to support their children. Both parents and students shared values around the collectivist nature of acting interdependently and this may have contributed to the passive approach adopted by students in class and with their parents. A number of findings were drawn. Even though Pacific Island parents demonstrated their understanding of the school system through their selection of a high decile, academic school, they did not necessarily relate to the individualised communication within the school. Furthermore, since students often separated school from home life, many tended to avoid conversations about their learning with parents. Parents, therefore, often felt disconnected from the school and frustrated that they could not be more effective at supporting their children’s academic progress, despite a desire to be more involved. Students did not always respond positively to parental encouragement to work hard. Instead, fearing that they might not meet parental expectations, some tended to adopt a low profile and passive approach to learning in class. Recommendations focus on the need for schools to develop inclusive strategies which encourage dialogue between teachers, parents, and students so that a shared understanding of the students’ learning needs and targets can be achieved.