Voyaging the oceanic terrains: Sustainability from within Pasifika ECE

Diane Mara


Using the Pacific metaphor of the vaka, va'a, waka [canoe] this review considers the journey of Pasifika early childhood education (ECE) in Aotearoa New Zealand over the past decade. The discussion covers three major areas within the Pasifika sector: the need to celebrate the strong heritage and resilience of Pacific early childhood educators and researchers; second, contemplating our future voyages in the ECE sector with its uncertainties and the dominance of competition; third, the articulation on aspects of quality in Pasifika early childhood policy and practice required to steer the vaka forward. The Pasifika ECE sector has on many levels been ‘targets’ for producing outcomes that are more suited to dominant discourses. Beyond broad aims and goals there remains no comprehensive strategic plan to comprehensively implement policy or empower Pacific ECE services, including those services that desire to respond more effectively to Pacific children and fanua  [family] to build upon their funds of knowledge. In the last decade, government has invested heavily in participation in this non-compulsory sector and left issues of quality to somehow languish and develop inconsistently. Despite isolated examples of initiative, innovation and creativity in Pasifika ECE, there is an absence of any substantial knowledge-building or joining of dots on the global educational map: teacher education and qualifications, professional development, access to quality service provision, assessment and review. Our voyage is still suspended in the oceans of policy and inconsistent implementation of policies and professional practice. Unless the focus in Pasifika ECE is increasingly placed upon a rights-based discourse, there is little hope of reaching the shores of equity and equality for Pacific children and whānau [family] within ECE in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Early childhood education; Pacific; Pasifika; New Zealand

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v22i1.554


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015