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Pacific educators speak: Author insight on bringing Pacific values to life

Feliuliuakiga o te au mo he tumanaki i taonga o fanau

Recognising the moving currents for the sustainable future of our children

(Proverb gifted to the book authors by the Tokelauan community of Matiti Te Akoga Kamata, Hutt Valley)


Pacific values are fundamental for allowing Pacific learners to thrive in an educational environment. But how can educators instil those values in the classroom, bringing them to life in the everyday?

This is the central question of Pacific educators speak: Valuing our values, a new book from NZCER Press by Fuapepe Rimoni, Robin Averill and Ali Glasgow. Chronicling nine core Pacific values outlined in education policy (belonging, family, love, service, spirituality, reciprocal relationships, respect, leadership, and inclusion), it compiles the voices of experienced Pacific educators as they share ways to consider, live, demonstrate and nurture these values for the benefit of students.

We caught up with one of the authors, Associate Professor Robin Averill of Te Herenga Waka, to break down some of the key teachings of this fantastic new text.

A platform for Pacific voices

Pacific educators speak found its genesis in an existing research project from the authors – as Robin explains, the participants’ input was immediately apparent as something special.

“For five years, we had been collecting data through interviews and observation of teaching and teaching interactions – across three cities, and in ECE, primary, secondary and tertiary contexts.”

“We were looking for examples of values in actions, and found some important differences between Pacific and non-Pacific educators’ views. As we discussed how powerful the Pacific educators’ words were, we realised we wanted to leave those voices to speak for themselves rather than write what they said from our perspective.”

And so, a conversation or two with NZCER Press later, Pacific educators speak: Valuing our values was born. Given the consistency of questions they responded to (what a value means to them, how they nurture it in their learners), it meant a cohesive set of responses that give a collaborative but consistent approach to enlivening Pacific values in the classroom.

“From a Pacific perspective, it [education] is not a competition – you put everyone before you”  - Chapter 5, “Service”

How to bring the values to life for Pacific students

There is a wealth of emerging tools and resources to support positive opportunities for Pacific learners, from the Tapasā framework to the Pacific Action Plan 2020-2030. Robin notes that with Pacific educators speak, the authors hope to deepen non-Pacific understanding of key values so they can better work with those resources.

“We know that student teachers and teachers want to make a positive difference for every learner they work with – but that deeper understanding of values central to frameworks like Tapasā needs reinforcement. There are deep Pacific interpretations of these values that can differ from one’s own view of the word, so we want to help educators gain that understanding.”

Together, the authors brought the values into a Pacific Values Compass, visualising the relationship between each of these and the learner, educator – as well as the intersections of each individual connection. They encourage acknowledgment of the often subtle differences between Polynesian, Micronesian and Melanesian approaches to the values, and provide practical examples of Pacific values in action.

These examples, which often overlap between values, include:

  • Learners beginning their day with lotu to develop belonging
  • Strong incorporation of family in classroom examples, and understanding of the collective good versus individual good
  • A rota of teacher and learner helpers in the classroom to foster the value of service

“Aroha and education have to be seen together otherwise the children who are failing will also have a sense of not being connected to others and education” - Chapter 4, “Love”

With each chapter containing a multitude of theoretical and practical ways to implement a particular Pacific value in education, Pacific educators speak stands as an incredibly comprehensive work to support our learners. As Robin explains, many of the values discussed were also foundational to the creation of the book.

“It was so great for the three of us to work together – each of us had family members involved in the process too, which makes it really special for us all. We remain hugely grateful to the values navigators who open each chapter, our reviewers, David from NZCER press – everyone who has shaped this book together.”

Pacific educators speak: Valuing our values is available now through NZCER Press.