Teu Le Va: Relationships across research and policy in Pasifika education

Publication Details

Teu le va is a tool primarily for educational researchers, to help them plan and implement research that contributes to the development of effective policy and practice in respect of Pasifika students in our schools.

Teu le va emphasises a number of principles or practices, including the need for: researchers to directly involve Pasifika learners, their families, and communities, and teachers as practitioners, in the development of research proposals or plans; ongoing collaboration between researchers and policy-makers; collaboration among researchers from different organisations and groups in order to build a sound knowledge base; ensuring that any research undertaken is relevant for a range of audiences (eg, parents, communities, teachers, policy-makers); all research, development and policy-making in Pasifika education to have a firm focus on student success: realising potential and identifying opportunities.

Author(s): Airini, Melani Anae and Karlo Mila-Schaaf with Eve Coxon, Diane Mara & Kabini Sanga

Date Published: July 2010

Section 7: Conclusion

"Researchers and policy-makers working together for Pasifika education success."
Symposium participant, 2007

Teu le va is about bringing researchers and policy-makers together within a shared agenda and common processes to help improve education outcomes for and with Pasifika learners.

It is clear that conventional approaches and thinking have not always been up to the task of dealing with Pasifika education issues. After discussion with Pasifika education researchers, policy-makers, and other change leaders in education Teu le va has been developed to provide the case for developing new, different and optimal kinds of relationships for the exposure and translation of knowledge into policy aimed at Pasifika success in education.

Optimal relations are a dynamic process that are not time-limited, nor time bounded, but focused on quality processes and outcomes. The translation of knowledge into policy-making is not just the result of policy but is the result of a sustained relationship between education partners.

Teu le va takes a strategic, evidence-based, outcomes-focused, Pasifika success approach. Every Pasifika learner in New Zealand should succeed educationally. The Teu le va approach is about making that happen. The three interactive principles focus on optimal relationships that will lead to directive action:

  • optimal relationships through teu le va between researchers and policy-makers are necessary for a collective and collaborative approach to research and policy-making and must be valued and acted on;
  • collective knowledge generation is pivotal in developing optimal relationships so that new knowledge and understandings are generated;
  • research and policy efforts must be clearly focused on achieving optimal Pasifika education and development outcomes.

Teu le va offers a philosophical and methodological base for all stakeholders in the translation of research into policy for better Pasifika education outcomes. The pan-Pacific notion of vā, va'a, vaha has been explored and we have developed a collective Teu le va approach which extends notions of the va to that of teu le va - directive action. The Teu le va approach is the single most important aspect in moving beyond just the identification of and procrastination about the state of things, to a place/space/site of action - getting things done, in a win-win situation which benefits all stakeholders and which upholds the moral, ethical, spiritual dimensions of social relationships for all participants/people/stakeholders involved in these relationships.

Teu le va emphasises the importance of relationships, and the significance of the context behind the necessity of understanding the domains of social relationships and influence of all stakeholders involved in Pasifika educational research. In this way, types of research, research problems, findings, and linkages to policy formation can be more explicitly conceptualised, strategically formulated, and approached, valued and acted on in terms of the aspects of the va in relationships (in)formed by the research process.

Six practices to teu le va in collaborations across Pasifika education research and policy-making have been identified:

  • engage with stakeholders in Pasifika education research;
  • collaborate in setting the research framework;
  • create a coordinated and collaborative approach to Pasifika education research and policy-making;
  • grow knowledge through a cumulative approach to research;
  • understand the kinds of knowledge used in Pasifika education research and policy-making; and
  • engage with other knowledge brokers.

A summary of how the Teu le va approach can be understood, valued and acted on has been provided in Table 1: this summary crystallises the Teu le va approach, and suggests how researchers can carry out more 'robust' research, and how policy planners/funders/ministries can identify robust research measures with which to ensure research outcomes that can inform policy.

The summary table is followed by two contexts for action which focus on Pasifika success across collaborative research and policy-making relationships, using the Teu le va approach, and ensuring that research informs policy.

Suggested actions for transformational change in addressing Pasifika education priorities are then provided, followed by anticipated research and policy outcomes in future years through following the Teu le va approach.

The principles, practices, contexts for action, actions and future research and policy outcomes/directions in Teu le va identify ways of approaching knowledge generation and translation in the context of dynamic, collective and collaborative relationships across research and policy.

Essentially, Teu le va involves identifying and understanding the va or 'spaces' between different stakeholders in Pasifika education research and development. Developing, cultivating and maintaining relationships consistent with the principles and understandings that underpin the widely shared Pasifika concept of va and to teu le va is advocated. This will strengthen opportunities for knowledge transfer across these spaces.

Ultimately, it is posited that soundly-based knowledge is fundamentally empowering. As generators and developers of knowledge, paying scant attention to knowledge transferability and applicability does a huge disservice to the endeavour. It is hoped that these Teu le va guidelines may provide a useful starting point for further thinking about knowledge generation and translation for Pasifika education.

The ongoing process will involve key actions. As described earlier, suggested actions include a meta-analysis of what has happened since the original Pasifika Education Plan was implemented in 2001, a stock-take and gaps analysis of recent Pasifika education research, and development (through collaboration among research communities, government and other stakeholders) of a strategic national research plan for Pasifika education research communities that aligns with The Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012. Any strategic plan of this sort should include opportunities to explore and apply Teu le va in practice and should focus on its three overarching, interacting principles.

Teu le va means that: firstly, research is more explicitly strategic; secondly, that the relationships formed during the multi-level research process are nurtured so that the approved practical action of researchers has support, including from policy-makers; and thirdly, that the knowledge produced by research will inform policy aimed at meeting the goals of The Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012 and which will lead to optimal educational outcomes for Pasifika learners.

Teu le va provides a 'new' direction and a reference point for thinking about and doing Pasifika research. It calls on policy-makers and funders to teu le va also. Working and interacting together involves attaining balance and harmony in all human interconnections and relationships - in expectations, behaviours, and communication. In turn, there is a need to allow time for this dynamic process.

How Teu le va applies in practice across these relational contexts is dependent on the type of project, resources assigned, time issues, pedagogies, epistemologies, ontologies, methodologies and methods acknowledged and applied, and how research is translated into policy.

Teu le va shows the importance of creating connections between researchers, policy-makers, the diverse Pasifika communities and others, and the larger context for change for and with Pasifika communities in New Zealand. Teu le va makes clear the expectation that Pasifika education researchers and policy-makers work together to produce the bodies of research literature, to lead and mentor others, to engage and to share.

The education sector must own this and advocate it to all partners of Pasifika education research. Teu le va offers real possibility for a transformative, collaborative agenda and provides hope that all children and young people in Aotearoa-New Zealand can succeed educationally.

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