This study focused on a group of 101 Tongan students within the middle and upper levels of primary schools in New Zealand. It examined the hypothesis that explicit vocabulary instruction, using an educational intervention, can positively impact on Tongan students’ reading comprehension and contribute to the improvement of their reading achievement. The implementation of the educational intervention in this study yielded increased instances of teacher instruction and student participation within guided reading lessons that linked to elements of defining and elaborating on vocabulary. In addition, the achievement scores of the Tongan students, using the Supplmentary Tests of Achievement in Reading1 (STAR) assessment, demonstrated positive and statistically significant gains in stanines2. Notably, over two phases marked statistically significant gains (with large effect sizes) at stanines above initial levels that were observed at baseline for the Tongan students in this study thus supporting the acceptance of the hypothesis to be true. It is argued that the identity of a Tongan learner needs to be set apart from that of a Pasifika learner, English language learner (ELLs), an English Speaker of Other Langauge (ESOL), and a bilingual learner, in order to adequately address the learning needs and the learning interests of the Tongan learner. By this means, the Ako Conceptual Framework was developed by the researcher within this study to offer culturally relevant notions and fundamental concepts to the considerations for the development of culturally responsive pedagogies3 in the education of Tongan students in New Zealand and abroad. In addition, the Ako Conceptual Framework observes Tongan strengths-based principles, values and educational concepts that are of relevance to the quest for academic success of Tongan students. It is argued that the current New Zealand Government initiatives aimed to support the identity of the Pasifika learner neglects to inform specific practices that could transform the Tongan students’, and other ethnic-specific groups, experiences of low achievement or underachievement within New Zealand schools into successful outcomes.