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

Executive Summary

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


"E pala le ma'a ae le pala le tala."
Fa'afua Tautolo

In November 2007, a partnership between the Pasifika Caucus of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) and the Ministry of Education's Pasifika and Research and Evaluation teams formed to sponsor the symposium Is Your Research Making a Difference to Pasifika Education? The symposium sought to grow the pool of researchers able and motivated to undertake quality research on improving Pasifika student outcomes; to identify good practice that has enhanced Pasifika education research/policy linkages; and to share ideas for and about Pasifika education research methodologies, in order to improve the quality and quantity of evidence informing Pasifika education policy. A wide group of people who have a stake in Pasifika education research came to the symposium to think about, debate and advise on the formation of guidelines to translate Pasifika education research into policy. The group included associates from the Ministry of Education and other government agencies, universities, the Private Training Establishment (PTE) sector, independent researchers, and community members.

It is from the symposium papers presented, and the discussions held, as well as input from the project advisory group - researchers Dr Eve Coxon, Dr Diane Mara, Dr Kabini Sanga, with Heleen Visser, Shelley Kennedy and other contributors from the Ministry of Education (notably Lynne Whitney and Dot McGeady), and the wider 2007 symposium consultation group - that Teu le va: Relationships across research and policy in Pasifika education: A collective approach to knowledge generation and policy development for action towards Pasifika education success has crystallised. The Teu le va approach was profiled and explained in the concept paper Teu le va: Research that could make a difference to Pasifika schooling in New Zealand presented by Dr Anae at the symposium.

Teu le va is about bringing researchers and policy-makers together within a shared agenda and common processes to help provide optimal 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 and different kinds of relationships for the exposure and translation of knowledge into policy aimed at Pasifika success in education.

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, which follow, 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; and
  • 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 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, 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.

Table 1 on page 17 provides a summary of how the Teu le va approach can be understood, valued and acted on. It suggests how researchers can carry out more 'robust' research, and how policy-planners/funders/‌Ministries can identify robust research measures with which to ensure that research outcomes inform policy.

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

Finally, an action and outcomes section, which includes identification of anticipated research and policy outcomes in future years based on the Teu le va approach, is provided.

The principles, practices, contexts for action, action and outcomes - future research and policy directions, presented in this document, identify ways of approaching knowledge generation and translation in the context of 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 knowledge is fundamentally empowering. For generators and developers of knowledge to pay scant attention to knowledge transferability and applicability does a huge disservice to the endeavour. It is hoped that this Teu le va approach may provide a useful starting point for further thinking about knowledge generation and translation for Pasifika education.


  1. As explained in the text, this was the joint NZARE/Ministry of Education symposium, Is Your Research Making a Difference to Pasifika Education?, held over two days in Wellington, November 2007.
  2. Fa'afua Tautolo is respectfully acknowledged for bringing this Samoan proverb to the attention of the authors. In this proverb we are reminded that the 'word,' particularly when documented, lasts forever, even when rocks decay over time. So the accuracy of research findings is therefore important as is the need to document it for all those relationships involved in the process.
  3. Teu le va (italicised) refers to this whole document Teu le Va - Relationships across research and policy in Pasifika Education: A collective approach to knowledge generation and policy development for action towards Pasifika education success. It also describes the teu le va approach. Teu le va (unitalicised) refers to the philosophical cultural reference point to take care of the va, the relationship; see p.11.

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