Finding our place in Early Childhood Education – The journey of beginning Pasifika Early Childhood Teachers
This research focuses on the journey of six Early Childhood students and/or teachers who have studied a unique and special first of its kind Pasifika specialised programme. The Bachelor of Pasifika Education (Early Childhood Teaching) (BPEd [ECT]) was offered at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). This research focuses on the journey of the participants, the discovery of themselves during the programme and the challenges they faced when implementing the programme in their Early Childhood Education (ECE) services.
This programme was different in all ways known to what existed for Pasifika Education. It was exciting, new and revived the hearts of those who had the opportunity to study it. The underpinning of the programme was embodying the concept of ‘ofa, alofa, faakalofa noa, aroha, aloha/love from Pasifika perspectives. The participants’ identity was essential as they begun to discover their worth and places here in New Zealand. Wisdoms of the spirit, unpacking of language, culture, values and beliefs were the beginning of being connected with our spirits and other Pasifika peoples. The participants share their experiences with the confidence that their Pasifika community will progress and have more precedence in mainstream New Zealand. Conceptualising their cultures and languages within the university was about bringing forth the talanoa/talk of new knowledges, new ways of understanding and knowing which was discovered by connecting to their identities, families, Pasifika languages, cultures, histories and ancestors. The participants reveal that it was through the programme they began to appreciate their families’ migration stories, communities, Pacific country, ancestors and the connection to the fonua/homelands. Their spirits were refined, discovered and nurtured. They connected to their Pacific nations’ concepts when they uncovered and rediscovered their identity. The 20 papers of the BPEd (ECT) programme were lalānga/weaved together so that they were interconnected in spirit, knowledge, values and beliefs. Beyond the programme was the space that brought together different peoples, of different backgrounds, socio-economic, histories, cultures, values and beliefs to begin the journey of becoming conscious of their identities in New Zealand.
The talanoa methodology has been applied in this research. The concept of talanoa from a Pasifika perspective encompasses the researcher and participants to navigate themselves through heart to heart, in depth and meaningful conversations that have no solutions but embrace and contain ideas for the betterment and advancement of our Pasifika communities. The aim of this research will be to revitalise and renew the hearts of Pasifika Early Childhood Teachers (ECT). To remind them of our Pasifika cultural practices, values and beliefs that is embedded within us. The spirit of understanding, thriving, incorporating and accepting our place is the beginning of becoming aware of our surroundings to develop and cement our places in New Zealand.
The anticipation is that this research supports Pasifika (ECT) so that they can continue to make strides for our Pasifika community. The research will support graduates of this programme as they continue to provide our Pasifika children with the finest koloa ignited and sourced in our heart, minds and spirits.