Literature review on Pacific education issues

Publication Details

This Literature Review on Pasifika Education Issues was commissioned to provide valuable information about those issues for Pacific education which have been researched, and those which have not in order to address policy requirements. It covers research since 1990 related to primary, secondary, tertiary and teacher education sectors. It includes some recommendations for further research on Pasifika education issues.

Author(s): Eve Coxon, Melani Anae, Diane Mara, Tanya Wendt-Samu and Christine Finau

Date Published: January 2002



In April this year (2001) New Zealand's Minister of Education released the Pasifika Education Plan. The Plan is underpinned by the Government's goals for Pacific education: increased participation, retention and achievement across the early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors. It complements other state sector work in the development of Pacific providers and capacity building within Pacific communities. A sub-goal of the Plan is to significantly increase the availability, quality and provision of information to Pacific peoples, their families, communities and education providers.

This Literature Review on Pasifika Education Issues was commissioned by the Ministry of Education's Pasifika Research Framework Team in order to provide its members with valuable information about those issues for Pacific education which have been researched, and those which have not.

Research Aims and Questions

The broad aim of this study is to identify and review existing research on Pacific education issues across the whole of the education sector and including those involving Pacific communities. The Review includes research reports, related publications and unpublished research studies such as academic theses that are solely about Pacific education issues, as well as some for which Pacific education is a component.

In addition to identifying the current range of information and findings related to Pacific education issues, this study is intended to contribute towards the identification of research topics which the Ministry may investigate as part of the initiatives aimed at improving achievement and reducing disparities for Pacific students.

The Ministry brief for the study established the following research questions:

  • What research and related studies have been carried out on Pacific education issues in New Zealand?
  • What are the key findings from the research?
  • Are the findings similar or otherwise?
  • What target groups (if any) were involved in the research?
  • What issues/areas are most researched?
  • What appear to be the critical factors impacting upon learning outcomes for Pacific students?
  • What were the limitations for each of the research studies reviewed and are the limitations similar? For example, in relation to quality and scope?
  • What areas of research appear to have been neglected which would contribute to increased understanding of Pacific education issues?
  • What recommendations for future research can be made in order to understand the issues of Pacific education in New Zealand?

Scope and Focus of the Review

Although the Review focused largely on New Zealand sources, where research studies had been carried out which concerned Pacific education issues of relevance to New Zealand they were reviewed also. These included selected research studies on education in Pacific countries and on education for migrant Pacific communities or indigenous communities in metropolitan countries other than New Zealand. The vast majority of the studies reviewed have been undertaken over the past decade, consistent with both the enhanced profile of the education needs of Pacific communities and the sharpening of the negative impact of wider social policies on education for marginalized social groups during this time period.

The term `Pacific education' includes education for Pacific peoples within the various sub-sectors - early childhood education, primary education, secondary education, teacher education, and post-secondary/tertiary education - that comprise New Zealand's formal education sector.

Pacific peoples are those currently defined by the 1996 New Zealand Census as constituting New Zealand residents who originate from the six Pacific nations of Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands, Tokelau and Fiji and include both island-born and New Zealand-born. Education policy and practice must also accommodate smaller Pacific communities of French Polynesians, Solomon Islands, Tuvaluans and I Kiribati.


This Review brings together a collection of research literature relating to Pacific education in New Zealand, as well as some relating to Pacific education in other locations. In addition to education texts and journal articles from around the Pacific and New Zealand, the sources consulted for this literature review include sources from Pacific education conferences proceedings, reports by the Ministry of Education, unpublished Masters and PhD Theses, dissertations and essays.

Drawing on the literature located as well as resources related to their own teaching and research experience, each of the research team reviewed literature relevant to the allocated sub-sector and developed a sub-sector chapter and accompanying list of references. These were then woven together.

For each sub-sector, research findings about the broad themes of access, participation and outcomes were sought, as were those to do with educational issues such as languages and literacy, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, school and classroom management, governance, school/community interactions, research approaches and processes, and ethnicity /gender/social class complexities.

Contact Us

Education Data Requests
If you have any questions about education data then please contact us at:
Email:      Requests EDK
Phone:    +64 4 463 8065