Libraries supporting Pasifika learners

Pasifika students are likely to use an inviting library that helps them achieve their learning goals. Here we outline ways to develop library and information services for Pasifika students.


Making connections
Knowing the learner
Languages and cultures matter
Educational resources and research findings

Further reading

Making connections

Research indicates that a critical success factor for Pasifika student achievement is teaching and library staff making genuine connections with their students. Relationships are key- staff-student relationships, staff-community relationships and student-student relationships. Effective schools have staff who motivate, challenge and are responsive to their Pasifika learners.

Here are some suggested ideas of how to support Pasifika students in your school:

  • Actively work to make sure that Pasifika students are using the library — through targeted resourcing and promotion of services specifically to this audience, based on school reading data and evidence that you have gathered.
  • Reflect the Pacific flavour of your student community in the library through the inclusion of Pacific content in your library. This could include resources, displays, language and inviting Pasifika guest speakers and authors.
  • Create a SOCIAL library.
  • Promote language weeks and community celebrations in the library. Are there people in your school community that could take run events in the library during language weeks?
  • Provide book clubs and other library activities with the interests of Pasifika students in mind. Talk to your students- what activities would they like in their library?
  • There are many successful initiatives in place at primary and secondary schools across New Zealand aimed at raising the achievement of Pasifika learners. What could work at your school?

Knowing the learner

Getting to know your students will help you to deliver library and information services that effectively support their learning needs. Research indicates that Pasifika students learn better with Te Kotahitanga principles of interaction and teaching. By creating learning contexts where identity, language and culture are valued and positive relationships exist, students are more motivated to learn, they participate more actively in their learning, and the learning is likely to be more effective.

Effective engagement results from knowing the students, understanding who they are and where they come from. An easy way to do this is by showing you know how to pronounce their names correctly and taking an interest in their lives and communities.

To know your Pasifika students, ask them about the many activities they are involved with, meet their families, involve Pasifika staff in the library. Like any other students, it basically comes down to just talking to your students and taking a genuine interest into who they are and what they are all about.

In some schools there will be a number of students who have immigrated to New Zealand and for whom English may be a second language. Most students will be New Zealand born with varying levels of confidence in one or more Pacific languages. Many have mixed cultural heritage including Māori and Palagi, reflecting their Pacific and New Zealand experience. Assumptions cannot be made that all Pasifika students will have the same level of confidence or connection to their culture. This is why it is imperative to get to know your learners, no two children are the same.

Languages and cultures matter

When planning library services to support Pasifika learners, it is important to be clear about their specific cultural and language heritage.

Cook Island Māori, Tokelauan and Niuean are languages of the realm of New Zealand. Usually Samoan is the most widely used Pacific language, but in some areas it is Tongan, Cook Island Māori or Fiji - Hindi, and there are increasing numbers of speakers of Fijian, Tuvaluan and other languages.

Knowledge of Pacific languages is important for Pasifika parents and students: it is part of their identity and heritage. Research shows that students who have strong literacy in their own language have greater success in literacy in English. Successful Pasifika pathways for learning include exposure to texts in their languages, bilingual classes or senior language classes.

You can support Pacific languages by using them in greetings, labelling or displays, by providing resources in these languages, and providing support for language teachers in your school. It is also useful to have information for Pasifika parents in their own languages.

Download Helping your child become a reader Reading aloud brochures. These are available in in Te Reo Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island Maori, Tokelauan and Niuean.

Educational resources and research findings

The following education resources and research findings will help provide you with a framework for service delivery, as well as ways to monitor your library's effectiveness.

  • Pasifika Education Plan from the Ministry of Education, which focuses on improving literacy and numeracy, improving the quality of teaching and school leadership through increasing their responsiveness to Pasifika learners and their families, and increasing the effective engagement between Pasifika parents and families and teachers and schools, focusing on learning.
  • Pasifika Education Community on Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) which provides links to resources and materials that can provide guidance on student engagement and home-school partnerships. The ‘Resources’ links are particularly useful.
  • Consider joining the Pasifika Online Community: an online fono for sharing information and discussion on how your school library can support Pasifika student needs.

Further reading

  • Pasifika research – a great page on the TKI Pasifika page with a range of up to date Pasifika research
  • Milne, A. (2009). Colouring in the white spaces (PDF): cultural identity and learning in school, ASD/APPA Travelling Fellowship Trust. This research report presents a strong case for the cultural perspective of Pasifika students, and the education of Pasifika “as Pasifika”.

Image: Cook Islands library display Otahuhu College by Fuatino Leaupepe-Tuala

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