February 10, 2021

Working together to improve early Pasifika education in West Auckland

Every child is a cultural being, with a unique history and rich cultural practices. This valuable means of learning is often overlooked in mainstream education; however, there are pockets of immersion-based learning centres and schools across Aotearoa for indigenous cultures including Māori, Tongan, Samoan, Niuean and Cook Island. In these environments, students’ identities are positioned at the centre of learning and teaching. They integrate multiple perspectives and world views in the curriculum to ensure children and their families feel they belong.

Yet culturally centred early learning centres (also known as language nests) face unique challenges including curriculum development, learning resources and lack of professional development opportunities. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns has only further embedded some of these existing inequities.

Recognising this, the Pacific Education Innovation Fund has been developed to support educators, learning centres and community groups to meet Pacific learners’ needs. Healthy Families Waitākere made a successful submission to the fund, which will establish a Samoan ECE Community of Practice in West Auckland. Healthy Families Waitākere Lead Systems Innovator, Catherine Powell, explains.

“Securing this funding will see a new and innovative way for the seven West Auckland Samoan ECE’s to share knowledge and culturally centred resources to improve the learning environment, whilst addressing some of the systemic challenges faced by culturally centred learning centres.”

Bringing this initiative to life will mean 300 children from 200 families are provided with further support, alongside over 60 ECE teachers and staff members provided with culturally centric professional development.

Since May 2020, Healthy Families Waitākere has been working alongside the Samoan ECEs in West Auckland to understand the impacts of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns. Workshop members jointly decided to develop the funding application, alongside committing to the ongoing COP.

The COP will be meeting to appoint the leadership group alongside discussing next steps to progress with the initiative.