Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Together as brothers: A catalytic examination of Pasifika success as Pasifika to teu le va in boys' secondary education in Aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-22, 12:42 authored by Martyn Reynolds

Pasifika education, the education of students with connections to the Pacific in Aotearoa New Zealand, is intercultural; Pasifika students are generally taught by Palangi (European-origin) teachers in a system originally designed to meet the perceived needs of European settlers. The field has a history of inequity, consigning many Pasifika students to mediocrity in formal education. A cultural reading of the situation connects a need for emancipatory self-description with the achievement of social justice within the kind of participatory democracy imagined by Dewey. Recent government initiatives such as the Pasifika Education Plan have sought ‘Pasifika success’ through targets and initiatives, the most visible focusing on success as achievement understood by comparison to other ethnic groups. This has been critiqued as not seeking success as, but of Pasifika, in effect another assimilative practice. This thesis interrogates how success in formal education is understood, described, and explained by male Pasifika students as they enter the secondary sector. This is complemented by: paying attention to experiences of success in primary education; extending discussion to families; and the catalytic use of Pasifika community-sourced data to create opportunities for teachers to re-vision their practice. The inquiry is a bounded case study in the atypical context of a high-decile single-sex state school. A framework which combines a critical theory, critical race theory, and a Pacific Indigenous research paradigm provides a nuanced strengths-based approach. A dialogical-relational methodology argues for a mediated dialogue to teu le va (care for the relational spaces) between participants. The thesis demonstrates how catalytic attention to relationality can help teachers positively re-vision their practice. Attention to relationality also supports a complex positionality where a Palangi researcher seeks to edgewalk between Pasifika and Palangi concepts and communities, teachers and students, and Pacific-orientated research and the academy. Findings suggest that male Pasifika students hold a wide basket of forms of success which both contrast with and complement success as achievement: ideas about a ‘good education’, acceptance, participation, comfort, resilience, and the contextual extension of competence. These can be understood through Pacific origin concepts such as va (relationality), malaga (journey) and poto (wisdom), disturbing existing thinking about Pasifika education. As a result, the thesis has potential to assist a re-framing of theory and practice in the field as well as providing a model of relational inquiry for further social justice research into intercultural fields such as Pasifika education.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Chu, Cherie; Sheehan, Mark