A group of students from the College of Education, Health & Human Development is about to embark on an educational malaga (trip) to Samoa, led by Leali’ie’e Tofilau Tufulasi Taleni, who is Kaiārahi Pasifika at the college.
In this blog, Tufulasi talks about the goals of the trip, and the need for education providers to understand Pasifika culture to better cater for New Zealand’s diverse learners.
Knowing and understanding the students we teach is crucial for building effective relationships with our students. This is one of the key principles behind our malaga to Samoa this month. The educational trip will provide an opportunity for our future teachers to learn about Samoan culture by living in a village with Samoan families.
This group of students will be enriched with knowledge and understanding about the importance of Pasifika identity, language and culture and how this understanding contributes to raising achievement, success and wellbeing of Pasifika learners. Research shows that utilizing students’ prior learning and experiences in teaching and learning makes a positive influence on students’ engagement. Implementing a culturally-based pedagogy developed from Pasifika cultural values is therefore critical in supporting students through the process of understanding subject content.
Although Pacific culture itself is diverse, values such as respect, service, reciprocity, leadership, spirituality, belonging and family are all part of what we might understand as a Pasifika worldview. The more our teachers understand this worldview, the more they will understand their Pasifika students, and the better they will be in developing strategies and programmes to raise their engagement and achievement.
One of the great things about these malaga, is that they provide an opportunity for non-Pasifika educators to be immersed in Samoan culture – living with families in the village, participating in village and family life, attending churches, experiencing customs and traditions, immersing in the Samoan language and also visiting schools on the island.
On previous trips, the educators were humbled by the hospitality and generosity of the Samoan people and came to truly understand the values of love, service and reciprocity enacted by the community. The villagers may have limited material resources but they are rich in the value of connectedness within the family and community. If a culture like that of Samoa can harness its cultural values, such as generosity, hospitality, love and service, in a genuine and meaningful way to change people’s lives, then it may be possible that teachers and educators can use the same tools to lift engagement and achievement.
In Samoa, we have a saying “E felelei manu, ae ma’au i o latou ofaga”, meaning birds fly everywhere, but always return to their nests. The message is simple – always remember your identity and culture.
Leali’ie’e Tufulasi Taleni has led the similar educational malaga (trips) in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2013 for teachers and school leaders through his role at UC Education Plus as Senior Adviser Pasifika Education. These malaga were hosted by his family in his village of Vaiafai Iva on the island of Savai’i. You can see more from the 2013 trip in this great video.
Photo: Leali’ie’e Tofilau Tufulasi Taleni with five of the group from the College of Education, Health & Human Development who will shortly leave for a Malaga (trip) to Samoa.