The Ministry of Education’s Annual Report (2009) identified that a disproportionate number of Pacific students were not developing required literacy and numeracy skills in line with their peers.

Both national and international surveys of educational attainment at primary level show that Pacific students overall are achieving at lower levels than their peers. The 2005/06 Programme for International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) survey identifies that 16 percent of Pacific students were less likely to reach the lowest reading benchmark. The international median was four percent, and for all New Zealand students it was eight percent. The 2006 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) gave average scores for Pacific (427), Māori (453) and NZ European/Pakeha (510). Researchers, educators and Pacific communities have expressed concern about this underachievement. Since 2001, the Ministry of Education’s Pasifika Education Plans have highlighted a commitment to reducing disparities and improving the achievement of Pacific students in New Zealand.

Recent National Education Monitoring Projects (NEMP) (2005 to 2007) show that although Pacific students do not perform as well as pākehā students they are more engaged with, and more positive about their own abilities in, mathematics, science, social studies, and science.

Ministry of Education data on Pacific presence, engagement, and achievement at secondary school shows complex relationships between the three factors. While Pacific students are more likely to stay at school longer than Pakeha and Māori, they have a higher absence rate than pākehā and Asian students. The visibility of Pacific adults is low, with Pacific students less likely to be taught by Pacific teachers, or to be at a school with Pacific members on the board of trustees.

In 2007, 56 percent of Pacific school leavers obtained National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 or higher, compared with 84 percent of Asian, 71 percent of Pākehā and 44 percent of Māori students. Longitudinal research on NCEA and motivation and achievement shows that Pacific students reported more family child-caring responsibilities which correlated with achieving fewer credits in NCEA level 1. [2]

Strategic Links

The National Administrations Guideline 1 that requires every board through its principal and staff, to:

  • provide all students in Years 1 to 10 with opportunities to achieve for success in all areas of the National Curriculum (a i);
  • give priority to student achievement in literacy and numeracy, especially in Years 1 to 8 (a ii);
  • through a range of assessment practices, gather information that is sufficiently comprehensive to enable the progress and achievement of students to be evaluated, giving priority first to student achievement in literacy and numeracy, especially in Years 1 to 8, and then to breadth and depth of learning related to the needs, abilities and interests of students, the nature of the school's curriculum, and the scope of The National Curriculum (b i-iv);
  • on the basis of good quality assessment information, identify students and groups of students who are not achieving, who are at risk of not achieving, who have special needs (including gifted and talented students), and aspects of the curriculum which require particular attention (c i-iv); and
  • develop and implement teaching and learning strategies to address the needs of students and aspects of the curriculum identified in (c) above (d).

This evaluation is closely linked to the Ministry of Education’s Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012 which sets goals and targets for promoting Pacific students’ achievement from early childhood through to tertiary education. In the school sector, the goals are: increased Pacific parent involvement in students’ education; effective teaching focused on achievement; and Pacific students achieving qualifications. ThePasifika Education Plan also has a goal to increase Pacific children’s access and participation in early childhood education.

What the ERO wanted to know?

The overarching evaluation question ERO asked in schools was:

What does the school know about progress in Pacific student achievement since the last ERO review?

ERO sought answers to this question through six investigative questions about the extent to which there had been improvements in:

  • Pacific students’ presence at school;
  • Pacific students’ engagement with learning;
  • the board of trustees’ knowledge and understanding of Pacific issues;
  • the school’s engagement with its Pacific community;
  • students’ achievement in literacy and numeracy from Years 1 to 10; and
  • the quality of the school’s achievement information for Pacific students.

Information from individual school reviews was aggregated nationally to provide the findings for this report which are grouped under:

  • presence;
  • engagement; and
  • achievement.

The report includes some comparison between the findings from ERO’s 2009 pilot report in Auckland schools and those from the wider 2010 evaluation.

What the statistics show about the schools

Roll numbers

Pacific students in the 233 schools made up from 95 percent of the roll to less than one percent. Approximately half the schools had fewer than five percent of the roll students of Pacific ethnicity.

Figure 1: Percentages of Pacific students on the evaluation schools’ roll.

 figure 1 is a pie chart called Percentages of pacific students on the evaluation school's roll. The slices of pie are from the top right, Schools with 1-5 percent Pacific students - 51%, Schoosl with 6-10 percent Pacific students - 16%, Schools with 11-20 percent Pacific students - 14%, Schools with 21-40 percent Pacific students - 10%, Schools with 41-80% Pacific students - 7% and schools with over 80% Pacific students 2%.

Samoan students were the largest group, followed by Tongan. Others were Niuean, Fijian, [3] Cook Island Māori, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan. Schools grouped some Pacific ethnicities together and classified them as ‘other Pacific’.

Participation in early childhood education

In each primary school ERO asked what the school knew about Pacific students’ early childhood education (ECE) attendance.

Fourteen percent of the 173 primary schools said that all their Pacific students had attended ECE. In a further 30 percent of schools most Pacific students had participated in ECE, and 18 percent of schools reported that some had. In three schools no Pacific students had attended ECE. There was no information about this in the remaining 32 percent of primary schools.

Pacific staffing and representation on the board of trustees

In almost a fifth of schools the numbers of Pacific staff and trustees had increased. Most other schools had the same number of Pacific staff members as at the time of their previous education review. Sixty-seven percent of schools had no teachers that were Pacific and 83 percent had none in senior management positions. Two percent of schools had more than 10 teachers and more than three senior leaders of Pacific ethnicity.

Seventy-eight percent of schools had the same number of Pacific trustees as at their previous ERO review. The number of Pacific trustees ranged from none to eight. Seventeen percent of schools had more Pacific trustees and five percent had fewer.