Early Childhood Monographs: The Quality of Education and Care in Pacific Early Childhood Services (August 2007) 01/01/2007

About Pacific early childhood services

Pacific early childhood services are managed and run by communities of Pacific peoples.5 "Pacific peoples" is a general term used to refer to people of Pacific descent who identify strongly with their island nations of origin. Pacific peoples include those born in the islands as well as those born in New Zealand.

Each service educates children in at least one Pacific language and culture. In many cases the programme is underpinned by Christian faith. Depending on the goals of its community, a service may be bilingual or immersion, with some being multilingual and multicultural.

The first Pacific language early childhood centre opened in Auckland in 1985. Since then, many new Pacific services have been licensed. This reflects the growing Pacific population of New Zealand and strong community support for language and culture-based early childhood services. The Ministry of Education supports the establishment of Pacific services and provides targeted assistance for ongoing development.

ERO‟s evaluation unit Moana Pasefika reviews early childhood services that provide a bilingual or immersion programme in a Pacific language, or that have a high proportion of Pacific children on their rolls.

Which services does this monograph refer to?

This monograph on the quality of education and care in Pacific early childhood services is based on the findings of the current ERO reports of 49 licensed services that provided a Pacific education as the main aspect of their philosophy. The reports were completed between July 2005 and December 2006. Twenty services in the study Education Review Office The Quality of Education and Care August 2007 in Pacific Early Childhood Services 2 were newly licensed at the time of their review and so had not had a previous ERO report.

This study covers 48 percent of the 102 licensed Pacific early childhood services throughout New Zealand. Pacific services make up 3 percent of all licensed early childhood services. The children attending these services make up 2 percent of all child enrolments in licensed services.

Where were these services located?

Of the 49 services included in this study, 29 were in Auckland, seven in greater Wellington, five in the rest of the North Island and eight in the South Island. All services were in urban locations. Six were located in, or adjacent to, a primary school.

When were these services open, and who attended?

Most services were open for all-day education and care of children from birth to five years. Some operated all year round, and others operated only during school terms. The smallest service was licensed to enrol up to 15 children, and the largest service could enrol up to 50.

The enrolment information for these Pacific services showed that Pacific children from six ethnic groups made up 85 percent of enrolments. Of the rest, Māori children made up 9 percent, New Zealand European/Pālagi children made up 4 percent, and children from 10 other ethnicities made up 2 percent of enrolments.

The ethnicities of Pacific children were: 46 percent Samoan; 17 percent Tongan; 16 percent Cook Island Māori; 9 percent Niuean; 3 percent Tokelauan; 1 percent Fijian; 4 percent mixed Pacific heritage; and 4 percent mixed Pacific and other ethnic groups.

Of the 49 early childhood services: 24 were Samoan; nine Cook Island Māori; seven Tongan; four Niuean; two Tokelauan; one Fijian; one mixed Fijian/Cook Island Māori/Samoan; and one that was set up to cater for the Pacific community of the city.

How were parents involved?

There are many different ownership arrangements for early childhood services, and these influence how parents are involved in service management and governance roles. Twenty-two of the 49 Pacific early childhood services were owned by charitable trusts and 22 were owned by an incorporated society. In these services, parents elected to the governing board provided direction and support for management and teachers. Five services were privately owned.

In early childhood education, there is growing recognition of the benefit of teachers and parents working together to identify learning goals and teaching strategies for each child. In three Pacific services, parents formally contributed to planning. Twelve services were beginning to develop or strengthen the role of parents as partners in the formal assessment of, and planning for their child‟s education. In seven services, this area was not yet well developed.

Parents frequently chose a Pacific service because they were associated with the community that established the service. The association was likely to be through church, family or language.

The valued relationships between family members and service staff were an important feature of 13 services. In these centres ERO noted that staff members greeted children and parents warmly and engaged in meaningful discussions that informed each other about events in each child‟s life.

In one service, parents who stayed during the day supported children‟s play and extended their thinking through conversation. Parents assisted with fundraising and working bees in four services, and attended educational or social meetings in six services. These types of relationships resulted in a strong sense of community among families.

ERO noted that parents were part of the management committees of 11 services, gave informal feedback about management in 10, and formal feedback through surveys in seven. Six services sought parent feedback on aspects of policy and operations.

The low income from parent fees was an issue for many Pacific services. In some services the amount collected from parents was very low, while other services had poor systems to monitor fee payments and other transactions. This low income combined with poor financial management practices places the viability of many Pacific services at risk.

How frequently were services reviewed?

ERO undertakes education reviews in early childhood education services on a three-year cycle. When the performance of a service gives cause for concern, ERO carries out a further (supplementary) review within 12 months. For Pacific early childhood education services, the proportion of supplementary reviews was higher than that for all early childhood services.

ERO has concerns that many newly licensed Pacific services are not meeting all regulatory and legal requirements at the time of their first ERO review. ERO has discussed this issue with the Ministry of Education that is responsible for licensing.


These include, but are not limited to Pacific early childhood centres (PECCs).

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