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A thesis submitted in fulfilment

of the requirements

for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

in Pacific Studies and Education

at the University of Canterbury


New Zealand

Lesieli Pelesikoti Tongati‘o




15 April 2010 Approval is given for Lesieli Pelesikoti Tongati‘o to use and analyse information and data, gathered during the course of her work as an employee of the Ministry of Education, in her doctoral thesis. This thesis is a retrospective review of the work in developing Pasifika education strategic plans. The development strategy involved consultation with Pasifika communities across Aotearoa New Zealand, review of research and evidence and stock takes of policy initiatives.

This study has been undertaken with the agreement of the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee.

The thesis will be available via the University of Canterbury Library PhD data base and will also be made available to the Ministry of Education to help guide future Pasifika strategy development and gain more understanding about Pasifika engagement and analytical theories.

Rawiri Brell Deputy Secretary Early Childhood and Regional Education Ministry of Education iii DISCLAIMER The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Ministry of Education.



Ask not what your country can do for you … ask what you can do for your country.

John F. Kennedy, 20th January 1961 ‘Oku ou fiefia ke fakafeta‘i ki he ‘Otua Māfimafi ‘i he ‘Ene ‘omi ivi mo e ‘atamai fie ako kiate au ke u fakahoko‘aki ‘a e ako koeni´. Fakafeta‘i ‘i he ngaahi lelei kotoa pe ‘oku´ ne faka‘inasi‘aki ‘a ‘eku mo‘ui´ pea mo ‘Ene tauhi ‘a hoku fāmili´. ‘Oku ou ‘oatu ‘a e fakamālō loto hounga mo‘oni ki he toko taha kotoa pe na‘e lotu mai ma‘aku, mo e ngaahi tokoni kehekehe ‘i he ngaahi ta‘u lahi ne fakahoko ai ‘a e ako´ ni. ‘Oku ou faka‘amu ke hoko ‘a e ako´, ko e fanā fotu ia ‘i he mo‘ui ‘a e fāmili´, siasi´ mo e kāinga kotoa pē.

By God’s Grace I’ve survived and arrived. Keeping aloft study, professional and personal lives and not losing sight of finishing this thesis, was a personal goal set several years earlier. This would not have been realised without thesupport of many people.

I acknowledge the financial and professional support given by the Ministry of Education in enabling this thesis to be completed and for continuing to support my academic endeavours and professional growth. This thesis has given me an opportunity to stand back from my daily work and review what has been done over the last 16 years. I also thank the Ministry of Education for approving my use of information and data gathered during the course of my work as the Pule Ma‘ata Pasifika. I acknowledge my colleagues who have totally embraced the “everyone is responsible for Pasifika education” mantra. Pasifika education would not be where it is today without this drive and commitment, thank you so much for your support.

In particular, I wish to acknowledge Howard Fancy and Kathy Smith for supporting me while you were in the Ministry of Education. Howard’s fono series got the Ministry of Education out there into many Pasifika communities across the country. Thank you Howard for the opportunities to discuss, theorise, strategise and follow through after every fono. I have valued your exemplary support for Pasifika education and this thesis reflects back on that work. Thank you to Kathy Phillips and Rawiri Brell for being great mentors and helping me to live this dream. To Karen Sewell and the Leadership Team, thank you for making sure that Pasifika education is living across the Ministry of Education’s work. To all my colleagues, this thesis looks back at our journey, thank you for contributing to Pasifika success and stepping up to numerous challenges. To staff in the Pasifika unit across the country, thank you for your

–  –  –

support, enthusiasm and clapping me on when the going got tough. Thank you also for sharing your multiple technological skills to help realise the Pasifika look and feel of this thesis and for being willing listeners for me to test my ideas out on.

Pasifika education would not have been a force to reckon with if it had not been for the support of thousands of Pasifika peoples across the country. Your willingness to attend and participate in fono informing the Ministry of Education about what was important in raising Pasifika participation, engagement and achievement across all levels of education, enabled me to complete this thesis by looking back over that information. Thank you for the healthy debates and discussions about education and your willingness to be involved in the fono series over several years, critiquing and providing feedback on successive plans have formed the backbone of this thesis. Without your involvement, the first plan Ko e Ako ‘a e Kakai Pasifika released in 1996 and subsequent Pasifika Education Plans released in 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2009 would not have been a reality. We’ve made some progress but we still have some way to go in this journey.

I acknowledge and thank Mele Piukala Limuloa, the most connected Pasifika person I know.

When I first started in the Ministry of Education as the Pule Ma‘ata Pasifika and wanted to meet with Pasifika peoples across the country, Mele was able to give me a contact name in all the major cities and large provincial towns across Aotearoa New Zealand. I was absolutely amazed. I contacted these people and they and Mele, organised the first series of fono by making introductory connections towards the end of 1993 and holding fono through 1994, 1995 and 1996. My deepest gratitude to you all. Thank you Mele for also providing me with a home away from home in Christchurch during this study, mālō ‘aupito e ‘ofa.

I wish to thank past and current members of the Pasifika Advisory Group. Your contributions, the many discussions we’ve had, your insightful comments on strategies, policies and operational activities have been valuable in visioning about the future of Pasifika education.

Discussions with Tongan language expert Melenaite Taumoefolau Manoa led to the identification and adoption in this thesis of the name Tolu‘i Founga, the three part development strategy of talanoa ako (consultation), ngaahi fekumi (literature review) and ngaahi ngāue (policy stocktake), as one of the tools created for retrospective review of information gathered and used for developing Pasifika plans. Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau, noted Tongan linguist, also

–  –  –

translated authorising environments, public value and organisational capability for me to use in this thesis. Thank you both for your help.

I acknowledge the patience and perseverance of my supervisors Professor Karen Nero and Dr David Small, and the support from the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies for completion of this thesis. Being a distant student must have been frustrating. I have always valued your critique, advice and support, and pushing me to consider a variety of contexts in this thesis. This has extended my own knowledge and the thesis is much more comprehensive as a result. I valued being challenged by both of you, pushing me outside of my comfort zones, and being critical friends as well and listening to my views about the Pasifika education world.

Thank you both so much.

I acknowledge the inspiration given by my late parents Viliami Vea Prescott and Mele Fe‘ofa‘aki Tāpealava Pelesikoti. I am thankful that you lit the education fire in our family and may this vision be realised by current and future generations of our families. This PhD is dedicated to you both, Mele for your educational leadership and Vea for pushing us to realise that dream. You both knew I was on this journey, may you rest in God’s peace.

I thank my husband Valita, three daughters ‘Uheina Lupe‘eva, Hulita Rachael and Mele Fe‘ofa‘aki, and grandson Vealata-i-Tafengamonū. Your love and support have nurtured me all these years, enabled me to work outside Tongan traditional paradigms and kept the home going strong in spite of the many challenges that have come our way. You have always believed I could finish this thesis and did everything possible to make sure that I did and still be a balanced person at home, in our church community and in the wider community that we live in.

Living in Palmerston North, working in Wellington and studying in Christchurch was a mission to be accomplished and I thank you all for helping me in this journey and for keeping me grounded on the things that matter.

Last but not least to all of my families, Tāpealava, Pelesikoti and Tongati‘o, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, in Tonga and around the globe, thank you for encouraging me on this journey and not letting the distance between our shores diminish your love, support and belief that I could do this. ‘Ofa atu ‘Ikani, Kolopeaua, Netatua, Taiana (pekia), Mavae mo e fāmili kotoa pe.

Mālō ‘aupito, ‘ofa lahi atu.

–  –  –

This thesis is a retrospective review and analysis of the processes and information gathered and used by the Ministry of Education in its development of Pasifika education strategic plans from 1993 to 2009.

This is a high level strategic analysis, adopting interdisciplinary approaches from across the social sciences particularly from education, public policy and management, and Pacific studies. It draws on information gathered by the Ministry of Education through talanoa ako (consultation), ngaahi fekumi (literature review) and ngaahi ngāue (policy stocktake), to review whether Pasifika strategic plan development met Pasifika and non-Pasifika requirements; fulfilled authorising environments’ expectations; created public value and leadership across the education sector; and, identified what worked and why.

The thesis draws upon Tongan and Pasifika values and methodologies and demonstrates how these integrate and create value across Pasifika and non-Pasifika worlds, using tools specifically created to address the methodological challenges in this thesis.

The thesis finds that it is important to formulate Pasifika strategic plans with Pasifika communities, and that the Pasifika Education Plans worked in focusing the Ministry of Education and consequently the education sector on Pasifika students, parents, families and communities’ education expectations and aspirations. Keys to successful Pasifika education plan formulation included engaging Pasifika students, parents, families and communities in education discourses; improving the education workforce’s responses to Pasifika peoples;

placing Pasifika learners at the centre of pedagogy and epistemology; faster scaling up of what worked in raising participation, engagement and achievement; and, having more choice for Pasifika communities to realise their education potential and exercise their voice at all levels of education governance and decision making.

It identifies the successful coordinating factor to be the growing of champions and leaders within the Ministry of Education, Pasifika communities and in the education sector to lead and sustain change through ownership, responsibility, accountability and monitoring for Pasifika success.


This glossary is arranged according to the English alphabet and includes Tongan as well as other Pasifika and Māori language terms used in this thesis. It should be noted that most Tongan words have multiple meanings depending on the context within which they are used. Expert Tongan language speakers and researchers may draw intricate and overt meanings for these phrases, the contexts in which they occur as well as the delicate nuances of symbolisms and images embedded in the metaphors used. Brief translations in this glossary are given as they are applied and used in this thesis.

–  –  –

fatu‘anga kakala making of a garland of fragrant flowers fe‘aonga‘aki helping each other; contribution; reciprocity fekau‘aki related to something else; mutual relationships feongo‘i‘aki feeling for one another feongoongoi listening to one another fepikitaki joining up; related fetokoni‘aki mutual helpfulness feveitokai‘aki respect; to be considerate fono meeting or conference; town or village meeting fonua land; afterbirth; grave fotu to stand out and to become prominent ha‘a tribe, clans hangē like something else; comparison heliaki to speak in metaphors; to say one thing and mean another hou‘eiki chiefs; nobles ivi power, ability or influence ivi fakahoko the power, ability or influence of an organisation to fulfil its functions ‘ilo knowing self; knowledge; know ‘ilo ‘eiki knowing higher ranked nobility kāinga extended family kakala fragrant flowers kali wooden pillow or headrest kali fanafana short wooden pillow or headrest. Used in this thesis to mean young children sleeping on their mothers’ arms in close proximity for safety, warmth and reassurance and for mother to whisper or teach moral behaviours, culture, identity, language or songs to her children

–  –  –

mahu‘inga importance, valuable, precious, cost of something mahu‘inga fakafonua important to the land, country or nation, civil or national matters. Used

in this thesis to mean public value

–  –  –

talanoa ako talking about education; consultation on education issues talatalaifale household discussion not intended for outside ears; instructing family about behaviour, morality, relationships tapu forbidden; unlawful; prohibited; sacredness; holiness

–  –  –

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