The achievement of Pacific learners is an ongoing focus for the Ministry, ERO and MPIA. Ministry data from 2011 shows that approximately 66 percent of Pacific school leavers achieve NCEA Level 2, whereas the achievement rate for Pākehā students remains significantly higher at approximately 80 percent.

The Ministry has developed two Pasifika Education Plans (PEP) (2009-2012 and 2013-2017) each with specific targets for improving Pacific learner achievement. The Ministry reported progress against these targets in the Pasifika Education Plan – Monitoring Report 2010 1 and recognised that many of the early targets had been met or would be met by 2012. The new targets set for 2017 aim to raise achievement to the same level as non‑Pasifika learners.

This report looks at factors contributing to Pacific learners’ success in 25 schools. ERO’s approach to this study is outlined in Appendix 1: Methodology. ERO identifies practices that contributed to success for Pacific learners in terms of gaining NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, and NCEA Level 2 and University Entrance. These measures are chosen as they are expressed as targets in the PEP, 2013-2017. 2 

The focus on NCEA Level 2 is of particular significance as it is now seen to be the desired minimum qualification for school leavers giving them opportunities in terms of further education, employment, health outcomes and a better quality of life.3 University Entrance, while not a qualification, is included as a useful measure of success and future opportunity.

Targets for Pacific school leavers

Targets identified by the Ministry in the PEP include the following:

  • The number of all Pasifika school leavers leaving with NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy qualifications increases from 80 percent in 2010 to 95 percent in 2017.
  • Eighty-five percent of all 18-year-old Pasifika students achieve NCEA Level 2 or equivalent qualifications in 2017. 4
  • The number of Pasifika school leavers with University Entrance increases to achieve at least parity with non-Pasifika school leavers in 2017.

National figures for 2011 5 related to the last two of these targets are:

  • 63 percent of Pasifika students achieved NCEA Level 2 compared to 73 percent of non-Pasifika students
  • 29 percent of Pasifika students gained University Entrance compared to 47 percent of non-Pasifika students

National figures for 2011 6 for NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy are:

  • 82 percent of Pasifika students attained the qualification compared to 87 percent of all students.

ERO’s Pacific strategy and previous reports

ERO has also developed a Pacific Strategy 2013-2017 7 that focuses on:

  • providing high quality evaluation to build success in the education system
  • providing useful information for parents and communities
  • promoting good practice in schools.

This strategy complements the PEP and commits to interagency cooperation to support Pacific learners to reach their full potential, secure in their Pacific identity.

To sharpen the focus of both schools and ERO on what was happening for this group, ERO included ‘Success for Pacific students’ as one of the ongoing national evaluation topics since 2011.

ERO has also completed three evaluation reports looking at provision for Pacific learners. The latest, Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners published in May 2012, 8 identifies good practice and makes strong recommendations for improvement.

Five key factors

ERO’s previous reports highlight the following as key factors that could contribute to raising outcomes for Pacific learners:

  1. Pacific learners are mentored and have access to learning support.
  2. Partnerships with parents and communities are promoted to improve the achievement of Pacific learners and ensure sound subject/strategic plans.
  3. Teachers receive professional development enabling them to engage culturally with Pacific students.
  4. Pacific learners’ performance is monitored and there is a focus on improvement.
  5. School leaders set specific targets to improve Pacific learner achievement.

Secondary schools with large Pacific rolls

MPIA is working with central and local government agencies, Pacific communities and 25 secondary schools to raise overall achievement of Pacific learners. This is in keeping with its Statement of Intent (2013-2016) 9 which prioritises Improved outcomes for Pacific young people in education, training and employment, and the PEP target that 85 percent of Pacific leavers will attain NCEA Level 2 or above by 2017.

MPIA initially targeted 20 schools with a high number of Pacific learners and five more schools asked to be included in this initiative. All but one of these 25 schools are in Auckland. Between them, these 25 schools have on their rolls, approximately half of all the Pacific secondary-age students in New Zealand. Details relating to locality, size and type of school are in Appendix 2.

MPIA is working with these schools to develop their capability to respond to Pacific learners by:

  • strengthening initiatives that are successful in raising Pacific learners’ achievement
  • sharing best practice across the schools
  • supporting the implementation of new programmes focused on Pacific learners’ success.

This ERO report explores the confidence and capability of the 25 secondary schools with large Pacific rolls in relation to the five key factors above, and identifies other features that promote high levels of achievement for Pacific learners. The report aligns ERO findings with current research about best practice in schools that improve outcomes for Pacific learners.