O a’u o le Tama Toa: Does the Faasamoa and Masculinity Influence Samoan Male Educational Achievement in New Zealand?
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Pasifika students are a major group within the New Zealand school population. One student in every ten is of Pasifika descent and it is estimated this number will increase to one in five by 2051 (Parkhill, Fletcher & Fa’afoi, 2005). The 2013 census data shows the proportion of Pacific people gaining higher qualifications has increased with the largest increase in the bachelor’s degree category (up from 4.5 percent in 2006, to 6.2 percent in 2013). However, of the five major ethnic groups in New Zealand (European, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Latin American, African (MELAA), Maori and Pacific) Pacific people currently have the lowest proportion of qualifications. (Statistics New Zealand, 2013). This is of major concern particularly in reference to the statistics referred to by the MOE by the year 2051. At the time of the 2013 Census, the Samoan ethnic group remained the largest of the Pacific ethnic group at 48.7 percent, it was also confirmed that of this group, 62.7 percent of Samoans were born in New Zealand. (Statistics New Zealand, 2015). For the Samoan population in New Zealand, further statistics confirm that of this group, Samoan males are less likely than their female counterparts to have post-school qualifications. For those that were partaking in study, 43.7 percent were men and 56.3 percent were women (Statistics New Zealand, 2015). Given these statistics, my research focuses specifically on the Samoan group and specifically Samoan males to investigate what is taking place, to look at current statistics regarding their educational achievement and to examine if Faasamoa (culture) has an impact on their approach and participation in education. I have also chosen to include the study of Masculinity to see if gender based roles within the Faasamoa impact Samoan males’ perspectives towards education. Because the Samoan population make up the largest cohort of Pacific peoples in in New Zealand, this is a critical area of research. The second concern is the impact this will have on future labour force and employment participation. These factors influence career opportunities and access to better life opportunities. Research shows that girls are more likely to have positive attitudes towards reading and equally, boys are more likely to hold negative attitudes towards reading (Ministry of Education, 2007d.) However, these basic skills are needed to survive in a knowledge-based society. Callister, Newall, Perry and Scott (2006) state if this gender trend continues to grow, there will be negative implications for leaving a group of men ‘behind’ not only for the individuals themselves, but also for the community and on a national level. I used Appreciative inquiry (Cooperrider and Whitney, 2005) as a framework and applied the Talanoa methodology (Vaioleti, 2006) to group and individual interviews. Using this framework and method enabled me to have a constructive, positive approach to my research thus removing it from a deficit perspective (Valencia, 2012). Findings confirmed Faasamoa had an influence on their decisions about learning and accessing education. In regards to Masculinity, these students felt education was most certainly attainable for Samoan males and not seen as weakening their status within male peer groups. Instead, they highlighted factors that influenced their success and factors that can also contribute to negative outcomes, which at this stage categorically warrants further research.