Pasifika students’ home knowledges and practices have low value in New Zealand schooling. Despite studies that have argued for culturally responsive teaching that meets the diverse needs of Pasifika students (Alton-Lee, 2008; Coxon, Mara, Wendt Samu, & Finau, 2002; Ferguson, Gorinski, Samu, & Mara, 2008), there is limited research that shows the kinds of ‘cultural’ or family knowledges or practices to which teachers might be responsive. This study provides stories of intergenerational educational experiences of Tongan males in New Zealand and Tonga, foregrounding Tongan language and culture as valuable knowledge in the education of Tongan males (Manu'atu, 2000b; Thaman, 1988; Vaioleti, 2006).
This study unfolds useful knowledge about cultural understandings and practices to which teachers might be ‘culturally responsive’. I use the idea of ‘tatala ‘a e koloa ‘o e to’utangata Tonga’ to refer to the process of unfolding and revealing the richness and complexities of Tongan cultural knowledge and understanding in the men’s families’ lives. As family cultural capital, koloa ‘o e to’utangata Tonga relates to the valuable knowledge and practices transmitted from generation to generation within the kāinga (extended family). While the perceptions of what constitutes Tongan cultural capital is diverse and varies from kāinga to kāinga, the perceived importance of koloa ‘o e to’utangata Tonga for Tongan males’ education is shared. The embodiment of Tongan cultural capital is in the kāinga’s aspirations, expectations and the hope for their young to succeed in education. This strengths-based study is a response to the deficit discourse on Pasifika education that is focused on ‘what Pasifika students lack’ in schooling. The overall focus is to remind Tongan parents and the community of the value of Tongan cultural knowledge and practices in Tongan males’ education. Moreover, this study aims to inform teachers, to help them understand what Tongan cultural knowledge looks like in the education of Tongan males. How teachers and schools respond to the cultural knowledge that Tongan males bring from home will determine whether or not their cultural knowledge can become cultural capital in schooling.