Latest figures show a three point five percent increase in the number of Pacific students achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement Level 2.
That's the basic qualification needed for employment, with Level 3 being regarded as the requirement to go on to university.
Pauline Winter, CEO of New Zealand's Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, tells Bruce Hill the results are very encouraging.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Pauline Winter, CEO of New Zealand's Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
WINTER: The exam results we're really excited about them, for 2012 we had an increase in the number of 16 year olds achieving NCA level 2. From 2011 it was 49 per cent, and at the end of last year 52-point-five per cent. So we are really celebrating that there is this change, that the trend is in the right direction. And there are a number of reasons why; there's a big focus on Pacifica achievement in education, families are engaged, the ministry's done a lot of work as have sister ministries, Ministry of Education and the qualifications authority in breaking down the mystique of how NCA works. We are encouraging parents to participate on boards of trustees so that they have more of a say in what happens in the schools, and can influence the school community into doing things differently if they need to. So really we've got a very engaged community here, really focussed on improving outcomes.
HILL: So would you say that it's the schools that have put more emphasis on this or do you think that Pacific Island families are getting more involved, or is it a combination of both?
WINTER: It's a combination of many things and families, communities, individuals, brothers and sisters, we've got more people at tertiary education now which helps in terms of homework centres, different types of initiatives, we've got central government agencies, the local territorial, local authorities that have got high Pacific populations are very engaged also.
HILL: How do these Pacific Island education results at High School compare to other groups, Pakeha and Asian students? Are they still behind, are they catching up, are they closing the gaps?
WINTER: Catching up, that's what I'm saying, the trend is heading in the right direction.
HILL: So is there anything more that needs to be done to keep this going, or are we at a good sort of level at the moment, is there still work that needs to be done to improve Pacific Island educational performance?
WINTER: I don't think we can take our foot off the accelerator, we've got to keep it firmly planted and continue to work very, very hard with families, with communities, getting young people, pre-schoolers into early education centres and early education initiatives, because that's really proven to be one of the ingredients of success as they move through education and onto tertiary and into work. So it's just we must continue and collectively not singularly, and learn from examples of what's working and what's working really well.
HILL: Well these results are for NCA level 2, which is the basic school leaving qualification. What about other ones NCA level 3 and what about the numbers of Pacific Island students going to university, how do those stack up?
WINTER: The numbers of Pacific Island people going into universities has been on the increase for some time. Access is no longer an issue as it was some time ago. We've got growing a wider pool of academics and supervisors in those tertiaries, so there really is a whole new world opening up to Pacific communities here in New Zealand.
HILL: When the level of Pacific educational attainment gets close to and equals that of other groups, that could be a big change in the way the Pacific Island community sees itself in New Zealand couldn't it, a generation down the track when these numbers are more equal?
WINTER: Yes very much, and I mean education's at the heart of Pacific families, very, very dedicated and focussed, but I think the work that's been done is to demystify what the education centre is all about, what it looks like, what the different roles are, how families can engage with educators, even things like parent-teacher interviews, the types of questions that they can ask, that we've been encouraging people to have those conversations and really understand as what the educators are saying back in terms of their child's progress in the system. So very, very positive change and whilst we are celebrating we know that the change has to continue in the direction that it's going in.