Raising Pasifika student achievement in science

ESR is contributing to an New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) advisory group to help lift Pasifika student achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

NZQA has established the advisory group, STEM Taupulega, to provide support, advice and guidance to NZQA to help realise the target: “To achieve a 50 percent lift in NCEA Level 3 Pasifika student achievement, in one or more standards in STEM related subjects by 2020”. The word Taupulega is a Samoan / Tokelauan term which means Council of Advisors.

Under the leadership and guidance of Aiolupotea Lili Tuioti, the STEM Taupulega Fono includes ESR’s Virginia (Jinny) Baker - a social scientist who specialises in community engagement in science. Jinny is a sociologist that utilises ‘systems thinking’, ‘co-design’ and participatory research approaches to support scientists, policy makers and communities to work together for meaningful social change. She is passionate about supporting youth in science and education, and has a strong commitment to working in partnership with Māori and Pasifika.

The members of the STEM Taupulega are selected for their skills, experience and expertise that contribute to the purpose and objectives of the role.  Other members include:

  • Dianne Sika-Paotonu - a Pasifika Biomedical Scientist leading the Penicillin Research Programme at Victoria University of Wellington.
  • J'aime Laurenson – a former Management Consultant at Deloitte, J’aime is now working at a tech start-up company, Auror - transforming the way Police and businesses prevent and solve crime in real-time.
  • James Penfold - the recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards for the AKO Aotearoa STEM Award category.
  • Joy Eaton - Deputy Director at Starpath, a University of Auckland project for equity and excellence, has a focus on supporting schools to open opportunities for Māori and Pasifika students to follow a pathway to degree level study.
  • Natalie Faitala - the current Chair for the Pasifika Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Komiti Pasifika. She is also employed as the Head of the English department at Wesley College, Pukekohe, Auckland.
  • Ronemia Teumohenga - the recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards for the Government Communications Security Bureau category for her input into promoting science to Pasifika students.

The STEM Taupulega group aligns closely with NZQA’s Māori development and advisory teams.āori-and-pasifika//(external link) 

Insights gained from ESR’s involvement with STEM Taupulega will help extend our own understanding of what works, what doesn’t and why when it comes to the content, direction and relevance of science for Pasifika and Māori youth, whānau and communities. These insights will help strengthen ESR’s contribution to educational outreach programmes, and inform the design of future science research projects to better connect and engage our Māori and Pasifika communities, future leaders and decision-makers in science.