As a Samoan educator, I have frequently heard the claim that Pasifika students need to learn how to learn to succeed at university. As part of the He Vaka Moana Fellowship in 2018, I sought to explore this claim by conducting talanoa with 24 Pasifika students who had taken a Pacific Studies course at the University of Auckland. The talanoa focused on their thoughts about learning and learning processes inside and outside the university. This study demonstrates that Pasifika students know how to learn and frequently reflect on their learning processes.
The notion of “success” for Pasifika students in higher education remains contested given the socio-political agendas of education in New Zealand targeting Pasifika engagement. The motivation to increase academic achievement for Pasifika peoples stems from “tail-end” outcomes, in which Pasifika populations are compared with other demographic populations in the attainment of higher qualifications. Many institutional “success” strategies are initiated essentially from a deficit positioning, to respond to barriers of participation, and ensure academic progression and student completion.
Drawing on nautical notions of traversing the Pacific Ocean, we seek to encourage Māori and Pasifika researchers to come together in purposeful and transforming ways, not to further homogenise Oceanic identities but, as many sang in active resistance in Aotearoa New Zealand during the 1990s, Kia Kotahi ra Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (“Unite as one like the Pacific Ocean”). We present Vā-kā as a methodology that emerged from a research fellowship focused on Māori and Pasifika student success at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
This article provides insights into the ethnicity of academics employed by Aotearoa New Zealand’s eight universities, with a particular focus on Māori academics. We show that, despite values espoused by universities in terms of diversity and within their equity policies regarding Māori staff, there has been no progress in increasing the Māori academic workforce. Māori academics were severely under-represented at universities between 2012 and 2017, comprising approximately 5% of the total academic workforce.
When considering higher education, the voices and experiences of minority researchers are often absent. Within educational research, in particular, the voices and cultural realities of minority teachers are rarely valued and are often ignored. This paper is my attempt to “be heard”, particularly in relation to the education of Tongan males in Aotearoa. I am a Tongan teacher–researcher, and, through the autoethnographical approach, I have discovered a way to tell my story and, in doing so, legitimise my knowledge.