There are many factors as to why Pasifika learners are not achieving alongside the rest of their social groups. Some factors may relate to socioeconomics, poverty, barriers to learning, and a school environment not conducive to Pasifika ways of being. School boards govern schools and one of their objectives is to provide quality education for all students. How is quality education being measured by the community? By different ethnic groups? Do school boards have a good representation of their community to ensure that students are attending school and receiving quality learning and support?
The Ministry of Education (MoE) has targeted Maori and Pasifika as priority learners because of their lack of achievement compared to other groups. School boards are responsible for a strategic plan to ensure that their Maori and Pasifika learners are receiving quality education. It will be the Maori and Pasifika board members that have valuable insight into these cultures which can provide the beliefs and values that will create a learning environment ensuring a quality education for these students. Since the MoE have identified these priority learners they have the responsibility to ensure that schools have support systems in place to ensure that equitable teaching and learning opportunities are available for Maori and Pasifika learners. An important document that the MoE has published since 2001 to promote support systems for Pasifika learners is the Pasifika Education Plan and the main emphasis is the collaborative approach between the learner, family, community and the school towards bridging the gap between learners’ identity and culture and the school environment to foster positive learning outcomes. Another objective at governance level is support for the increase of Pasifika representation at governance level so therefore, a school with a high population of Pasifika students must have this same population reflected in the board representation of the school.
A qualitative study with a culturally responsive conceptual framework and methodology was used when interviews were conducted with six Samoan board members in high schools with a large number of Pasifika students in South Auckland. Exploration of their perspectives pertaining to their role as board members and the use of the Pasifika Education Plan to inform their practice at governance level emerged during the interviews.
The findings of this study centred around issues such as role satisfaction, recruitment of a wider representation of Pasifika, support for new board members, capability and capacity of members, cultural responsive leadership and maintaining culture, language, and identity of students in the schools. Samoan board members found their experiences in the role rewarding and they supported the need for a wider representation of Pasifika at governance level in order to inform the practice and policies to be more inclusive of the Pasifika learners to ensure that opportunities are available to support positive learning outcomes. Surprisingly, the Pasifika Education Plan was absent and not used to inform strategic plans and policy of the six schools.
The exuberant passion and vision from these six Samoan board members was so energetic and powerful, it was evident that Pasifika learners’ needs are being discussed and debated at governance level in these schools so that they are more likely to receive the quality education they deserve.