This report highlights the crucial role of leaders in Pacific early childhood services to manage changes that improve learning outcomes for Pacific children. Other leaders may find this report useful when considering improvement-focused changes in their centres.

ERO evaluated eight Pacific services with good leadership practices that offered an education curriculum in a Pacific language, were reviewed between March 2011 and March 2013, and given a three year return time. Some services previously had supplementary (early review return) reports.


Improving educational outcomes for Pacific learners is a priority for the education sector. The Pasifika Education Plan (PEP) is a government strategy to improve the way the education system helps Pacific children to realise their potential.

Early childhood services are responsible for implementing a curriculum based on Te Whāriki that builds strong learning foundations for children.

In August 2007, ERO published a national report 1 that highlighted wide variation among Pacific services in the quality of education and care they provided. Many offered programmes that were culturally enriching and some were of high quality. However, in many Pacific services children were not receiving quality education and care.

The 2011 ECE Taskforce 2 identified some barriers to participation of Pasifika children in ECE. The Ministry of Education is addressing these barriers through the Participation Programme and the work of the Early Learning Taskforce, especially the Pasifika Church Strategy and the Pasifika Organisation Strategy.

Working within a Pacific context

In the Pacific context, relationships are central to the wellbeing of a Pacific person. An important aspect of a Pacific person’s identity is cultural practice. Cultural practice includes the language, values, and social institutions that make up a particular ethnic group’s culture or society. 3 Cultural practices also play an important role in passing cultural knowledge from one generation to another. This knowledge is often portrayed in stories, cultural models and metaphors.

Leaders of Pacific early childhood services in this report viewed their role as custodians of the Pacific cultural practice within the context of their centre. They knew that it was important to provide an early childhood education that was culturally responsive to the children. This included the use of Pacific knowledge and values to guide the curriculum and for the Pacific language to be embedded in the programme. The leaders nurtured relationships with Pacific elders and social institutions, and encouraged the services to link with other Pacific groups to support Pacific children and families’ language, culture and identity.

How did ERO approach the evaluation?

ERO recognised the need for a culturally appropriate method of data collection.

Talanoa is rooted in Pacific oratory traditions and literally means a formal or informal face-to-face conversation. Talanoa involves a deep and interpersonal relationship. It is a preferred method of data collection because relationships are the foundation on which most Pacific activities are built. Talanoa is recognised in many Pacific Island nations and is natural for most Pacific peoples.

While talanoa is about talking, it allows rich contextual and interrelated information to emerge as stories that are told together. These stories are what talanoa integrates and weaves to make authentic knowledge such as cultural models and metaphors from which valid solutions for Pacific issues can be found.

ERO’s talanoa with each service was guided by these investigative questions:

  • What is the role of the leader? How is the leader supported in their role?
  • How does the leader promote the service’s philosophy, vision and goals to ensure these are enacted in the service?
  • How does the leader work in partnership with staff, parents, family and communities to achieve positive outcomes for all children?
  • How does the leader contribute to ongoing improvement — curriculum development, staff appraisal, management performance and review of service?