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Fononga 'A Fakahalafononga: Tongan Students' Journey to Academic Achievement in New Zealand Tertiary Education

Abstract
There is a national concern in New Zealand about the low academic achievement of Pasifika students, including the Tongans as one of the specific groups. The literature shows that the problems associated with the academic achievement of Pasifika students derive from the cultural differences between Pasifika and the dominant Pālangi culture. Since Tonga has a unique culture that is not the same as any other cultural group in the Pacific, this research set out to explore specific Tongan socio-cultural aspects that impact on Tongan students’ academic achievement in New Zealand tertiary education. Culturally specific aspects that impact on Tongan students’ academic achievement could better inform those who are concerned with the education of Tongans in New Zealand. The purpose of the research is to explore possibilities for enhancing the academic achievement of Tongan students that could bridge the disparity between Pasifika and Pālangi academic achievement. This research used a Tongan, Pasifika, qualitative, phenomenological, ethnographical, methodological framework to explore the views of twenty five Tongan-born participants in New Zealand on the perceived socio-cultural aspects that impact on their academic achievement. It provided opportunities for the participants to reflect on their experiences as university and polytechnic students, as staff and educators, and as parents. Sociocultural, postmodernism, and the Tongan tā-vā, (time-space) theory of reality were used to interpret the Tongan students’ inter-cultural learning experiences at two levels of reality; the students’ realities, and the global realities. The students’ realities include their individual attitudes and choices based on their cultural worldviews that impact on their academic achievement. The global realities include the trends of postmodernism, biculturalism, multiculturalism, globalisation and change which are beyond the students’ control. The key findings of this research were that Tongan students perceived they were academically successful when all parties involved had a deep and mutual understanding of, respect for, and practice in, both Tongan and New Zealand social and academic cultures. In particular, the Tongan students and their Tongan supporters need a deep and mutual understanding of, respect for, and practice in, their own Tongan as well as New Zealand social and academic relationships. New Zealanders who are involved with Tongan students’ education need a deep and mutual understanding of, respect for, and practice in, Tongan social and academic relationships. Furthermore, flexibility within the two cultural relationships in terms of tā (time) and vā (space) should be considered by all parties to release social tensions and consequently enhance academic achievement. This two way process allows Tongan students to move fluidly within the two cultures, especially if they understand how tā (time) and vā (space) are manifested in relationships within their learning environments. This research is highly relevant for anyone concerned with Tongan students’ academic achievement in New Zealand tertiary education; from the top level policy makers in the government to the Tongan students at the grassroots level.
Type
Thesis
Type of thesis
Series
Citation
Kalavite, T. (2010). Fononga ‘A Fakahalafononga: Tongan Students’ Journey to Academic Achievement in New Zealand Tertiary Education (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4159
Date
2010
Publisher
University of Waikato
Rights
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.