This paper applies an oceanic perspective to the process of conceptualising the education of Pasifika peoples in the context of 21st century New Zealand. Such a perspective is connected to and anchored by an authentic (in terms of the academy) network of Pacific knowledge and authority. It is able to draw on and utilise the theorising of established Pacific scholars and thinkers, as well as selected non-Pacific or Western ones. It recognises and encompasses new forms of Pacific expression and identity, which enhances authenticity and relevance. Applying an over-arching oceanic perspective in this paper will develop a historical and conceptual analysis to critique terms and constructs that have become common-sense understandings in 21st century New Zealand, such as Pacific/Pasifika, and Pacific/Pasifika education. Broader contextual issues as well as more personal ones are therefore open to scrutiny and critical reflection. This paper identifies and examines issues such as the tension between the state’s priorities for the provision of education for Pacific peoples and Pacific people’s motivations for pursuing and participating; the importance of critiquing beliefs and assumptions about education; the need for greater Pacific pro-activity in conceptualising their education, and determining the desired outcomes; and the isolation (intellectual and cultural) of Pacific educators located within the academy. The structure of the paper makes use of Polynesian navigation and voyaging imagery as a tool to enhance clarity, counter hegemony and support the creation of a Pacific paradigm of meaning and analysis.

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