In March 2018 a collaborative network of five South Auckland Pasifika Early childhood Education (ECE) centres was awarded an ACE Aotearoa Professional Development grant to help the parents, caregivers and staff of the children to gain the knowledge and skills that would make them both better at managing their ECE centres and help them identify and move along their own individual learning pathways.

COMET Auckland has shown that Māori and Pasifika ECE centres provide great engagement places for Māori and Pasifika parents and caregivers, who can then be helped to engage in their own learning.

Fitu A-Young from Solve Education was the facilitator of the project.

“The overarching goal is to help create a culture of learning, especially among the adult learners. And we wanted to start with giving them the skills to run their centres effectively.

“For many years Pasifika ECEs have been struggling because they have not been able to meet the Ministry of Education regulations.

“The problem is that many of our parents and potential board members have a limited understanding of the purpose of ECE. They don’t understand what we are trying to do and why we are doing it. The result is that board members and parents are unable to contribute to policy and the decision making process. They don’t have the confidence to speak up and ask the right questions.

“We also know that participation and access to Pasifika ECE is vital for Pasifika success.

“So the programme we ran in 2018 involved workshops in four areas: curriculum and assessment; financial literacy/sustainability; cultural capability/ intelligence/competence; and governance and management.

“After the workshops all the participants were helped to develop their own individual learning plan.

“Seventy-five parents and adult care givers attended the workshops. This represented 200 families with a potential reach of 400.

“We contracted a professional evaluator who focused on three key questions – broadly: the impact of the programme on the adult’s ability to make better choices in using and managing their finances and the financial management of their centre; what worked well in the design and delivery of the programme; and what might be done to support future development.

“We were pleased to find that the programme did in fact greatly increase our adults’ financial management skills, both in their own lives and in the management of their centres. ‘Fantastic’ was the way many rated the programme’s impact on their financial capability. They also learned essential governance skills.

“Of course, such is the size of the challenge, many of those who participated in the programme said they need more. The evaluation also pointed to ways that the programme needs to develop, including workshops that focus on children’s development and a workshop that focuses on how we learn how to learn. We could also see the value of training parents to be trainers in the ECE sector.

“With this successful pilot programme behind us we are planning for the next phase.

“We are starting with organising learning hubs for parents and caregivers who want to learn more about how to support their moko or tamariki in an early learning context. We are using the Ministry of Education’s Tapasā framework based around cultural competency. There is a lot of support for teachers using this framework, but not much for parents.

“Acquiring cultural competency is a huge need for some of our second, third or even fourth generation New Zealand Pasifika families. Once they have consolidated their identity and know who they are, only then will many have the confidence to engage in education, to support their children, and to find their own learning pathway.

“This year we plan to access funding so that we can extend our programme to a further 10 ECE centres, including some in Wellington. Training parents as trainers will enable us to extend our reach.

“We are also focusing on helping our parents and caregivers recognise the excellent transferable skills that they do have. This will be through our mentoring programme.

“Ongoing support will of course be provided to the ECE centres that have signed up to our programme – so they can continue to build their capacity.

“Ultimately we hope to be able to deliver the professional development nationally.”

Tapasā– Cultural Competencies Framework for Teachers of Pacific Learners
Tapasā is a tool designed to help improve the way teachers and leaders engage with Pacific learners, and to an extent parents, families and their communities, to make the biggest difference in a child’s educational success.

Tapasā is a resource for all teachers of Pacific learners. It is designed to support teachers to become more culturally aware, confident and competent when engaging with Pacific learners and their parents, families and communities. It aims to contextualise quality teaching and planning within a Pacific learner setting by providing a Pacific lens to the Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Code of Professional Responsibility.