ERO launched its new Pacific Strategy in Auckland on 21 March. The strategy aims to ensure a continued drive in the improvement of Pacific learner outcomes. It recognises the need to shift from a focus on participation towards a more rigorous drive for quality, and for education provision which emphasises culturally-located success.
Over the past decade we have witnessed very large improvements in the proportion of Pacific students who leave school with qualifications. Currently some 76% of Pacific students leaving school have gained a NCEA level 2 or higher qualification. In 2009 the figure was 56%. This represents a 70% increase in Pacific students getting through our system and achieving at this level in the space of a decade. The improvements in Pacific students leaving school with a Level 3, or UE qualification, has been more astounding, doubling over this same period (ie a shift from 23% to 46%). If this pattern continues we will see the gap between Pacific and non-Pacific learners (at 54%) virtually closed. This represents a substantial transformation for many New Zealand Pacific families who in the past few years will have had the first generation of children leaving school and progressing onto higher education.
Issues however remain. Pacific children tend to engage in early childhood programmes at older ages and have more sporadic participation. ERO also finds that a disproportionate number of services providing for Pacific learners are struggling to provide quality education programmes. At school, Pacific learners are too often streamed into a narrower range of subjects, and are less likely to participate in science, mathematics or STEM based programmes of study. This limits their subsequent career options. Learning a Pacific language also seems to be taking a back seat within our schools, with only 10% of Pacific learners in an immersion programme, and the intensity of language learning diminishing as students get older. We have equally seen negligible change in the teaching of Pacific languages in our schools in recent years.
The strategy seeks to address these issues and has five key focus areas:
These focus areas are underpinned by a three-year work programme focussed on delivering demonstrable change and further improvement in Pacific learner success.
The strategy has been developed through ERO's own Pacific Fono group, through workshops with ERO review staff and from discussions we have had with many parents, community members, and with the sector through our review process in Pacific communities and with Pacific learners.
The strategy will guide ERO's staff evaluation focus, practice and work programme.