Saili i tautai se agava'a - A true leader masters the art of navigation: The impact of effective leadership in raising the engagement and achievement of Pacific learners in schools.

Year: 2019

Author: Taleni, Tufulasifa'atafatafa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Pasifika students’ education performance in Aotearoa New Zealand continues to face on-going challenges and potential ‘crisis’. For too long, Pasifika students have been trapped in a ‘prison-like’ environment of underachievement. The ‘crisis’ is that the status does not appear to have changed significantly since the 1960s and 70s, regardless of the endeavours by the New Zealand government and Ministry of Education to Pasifika education. Decade after decade, the educational status of Pasifika students overall has continued to maintain its position; one that places them at the very bottom in comparison to non-Pasifika students. Many teenagers continue to leave school with no qualifications, resulting in unemployment or poorly paid jobs. Consequently, more and more Pasifika families live in poverty in this country. The on-going unanswered question is: Are Pasifika students failing the system or, is the New Zealand Education system failing Pasifika students? When are ‘we’ as a ‘community of learners’ going to get this right?

This paper is presented in a form of a voyage (folauga) to contextualize the true essence, depth and significance of the topic of this study in relation to the challenges and tests presented by a long hard fought voyage. Four school principals, recognised as effective leaders who support Pasifika students, shared their leadership experiences and practices in a Talanoa setting. Interpretation and analysis of the Talanoa revealed seven major supports that effective school leaders need to transform their schools from a failing context to a successful, for Pasifika students. This research found that there was a significant need for effective leadership by principals to navigate educational changes that genuinely make a difference to unlock doors of opportunities in every school to raise achievement and wellbeing for all Pasifika learners. Furthermore, the analysis and interpretation based on the perspectives and data gathered through Talanoa with the Mau ki te Ako Pasifika Education Advisory Group (Pasifika community leaders) validated these key supports that the principals identified. The aim of the study was to address this issue through effective professional development for school leaders so they may navigate robust, vigorous and well-thought through changes and supports in schools to raise the engagement and achievement of Pasifika learners. Lifting Pasifika achievement is a great challenge for all but nothing is impossible.

‘E o’o lava i ogasami ile moana sausau e mafai lava ona folauina’

‘Even choppy sea can be navigated’.