Photo: SAASIA Director, Irene Paleai-Foroti. Image supplied by The Spinoff

An initiative rooted in Pacific culture is helping early childhood education centres support both teachers and children to thrive.

Embedded in fa’a Samoa (Samoan way of life), Tāfesilafa’i is rebalancing the scales so aoga amata (Samoan early childhood education centres) have the same access to support and resources as that of their mainstream equivalents. One of the first challenges faiaoga (teachers) raised was the perceived differences between a fa’a Samoa approach to learning and the compliance criteria set by the Education Review Office (ERO).

Responsible for evaluating and reporting, officers from the ERO visit all learning environments (schools and ECEs) annually to monitor effectiveness to meet national standards. Healthy Families Waitākere Pacific Strategist, Ella Falakoa continues.

“There can be a lack of cultural understanding when ERO officers come in, and the aoga amata teachers struggle to explain themselves [in English]. Faiaoga (teachers) can spend sleepless nights worrying as they don’t want to get something wrong.”

After reading a partnership article on The Spinoff where this challenge was explained, Pule Pasifika Director of Evaluation for the ERO, Violet Tu’uga Stevenson contacted SAASIA (Tāfesilafa’i partner and national society for aoga amata) to better understand how the agency could work alongside aoga amata. SAASIA Fa’atonu (Director), Irene Paleai-Foroti, continues.

“Our priority is to ensure that faiaogo feel secure when the ERO engages with aoga amata. Our role has been to foster constructive dialogue between the ERO and the aoga amata, with a focus on implementing and enhancing conditions to empower the aoga amata to confidently meet the ERO’s requirements. We’re also working with the ERO to develop their understanding of how to engage with aoga amata in a culturally sensitive way. “

Tāfesilafa’i is funded by the Ministry of Education’s Pacific Education Innovation Fund and backboned by Healthy Families Waitākere.