PowerUP programme boosts Pacific students’ learning
The Pasifika PowerUP Plus programme is helping Pacific parents and adult family members navigate the education system and better support their children’s academic achievements.
PowerUP sessions currently run for 26 weeks, and deliver targeted education workshops to Pacific parents and their families. Each week there is a hot meal before the group breaks into parents, ECE students, primary and intermediate and secondary student workshops.
Parents attend workshops about NCEA and education pathways and can meet other parents with similar experiences and concerns, ask teachers questions, and build their confidence in the education setting so they can support their children’s learning.
Students can access academic support and mentoring, and attend workshops about topics like study skills, subject choice, health and wellbeing, how to deal with bullying, and financial literacy.
Mount Roskill Grammar School teacher Tony Kwok has worked at a range of PowerUP PowerStations over the past four years, including the Mount Roskill PowerStation, where he is now the lead teacher.
He says the PowerUP model works for the whole family because it is based on Pacific culture and includes grandparents, siblings and aunts and uncles.
Tony says the PowerUP whole-of-family approach can equip parents and families with understanding the education system, and how they can support their children through choosing subjects and career pathways. It’s what PowerUP is all about, he says.
"As a teacher, you are only with students once a day. But parents are the ones who spend most of the time with their children. So when parents are involved, we notice better engagement with their schoolwork and their behaviour improves.
"If families get involved more, and PowerUP is just one way to make a difference, it continues on and you make a difference in the community."
Tony has seen improvement in the students who attend PowerUP, as well as the parents who attend. For Pacific parents, family, community and students, affirming their identity language and culture is key.
"Students become more confident in their schoolwork. They’re immersed in their learning and they’re quite comfortable in their schoolwork. They’re also quite comfortable to show their language.
“They’re also more engaged in their education because their parents are more involved, and the parents get to find out what New Zealand education is about.
"The reason PowerUP is successful is because when students are proud of their culture, they’re usually more engaged. They’re learning from their own culture and it is boosting their confidence and their engagement. Including culture in education is very important."
He thinks every teacher can support their Pacific students by taking a bit of time to get to know their culture.
"A lot of the students’ cultures we don’t have time to find out about in detail, because we’re very busy. But when you have the PowerUP, you get to talk to students’ families, so you get to find out more about their culture, understanding how their learning is taking place.
"If you can incorporate that into your own teaching, they’ll engage in the classroom more, and they’ll also receive more educational attainment."
Improved learner outcomes
Kelston Boys’ High School teacher Daniel Samuela has taught at the school for 16 years and has been involved with PowerUP for three years now, first as a teacher and now as the coordinator.
Around 120 students attend PowerUP each week, which has increased from around 80 students each week last year. There’s a smaller turnout of parents – both teachers agree that more parents should get involved in PowerUP so they can support their children’s learning.
Daniel has found the whole-of-family approach provides parents with a greater understanding of the education system and how to best support their children, and gives students more confidence and improves their engagement in their learning.
"For those parents that come along, they really have a sense of better understanding and better learning of strategies they can use to help their own kids, and the way in which schools work generally and their reporting and their expectations.
"At PowerUP, you can have the freedom of having your parents along, and your little siblings which is quite amazing, you can all come as a family, which is quite a powerful model. And I think that’s why lots of kids are gravitating towards PowerUP. We tend to come together socially, but I think it’s that mix of social gatherings as well as spurring one another on."
Daniel says the freedom of the PowerUP environment, in particular the relaxed atmosphere and family-centred model, is appealing to students, and offers a safe and comfortable environment for more students to attend.
"There’s no hard evidence, but they like the freedom and the space, so it’s a relaxed atmosphere where they can access expertise. Some of them get one on one tuition with a biology teacher or another teacher.
"Particularly for the Year 13 students, particularly this year, they’ve really grabbed on PowerUP as a place where they can get really focused support from specialist teachers. I’ve seen a whole push towards a UE (University Entrance) shift over the past few years, for primary school students as well.
"Students knowing what they want, being quite particular. Some may come for a month to finish some assessment, while some may come for one teacher to seek tuition, and kids being quite strategic in how they use their time. It’s an awesome place that can supplement the learning that’s going on in their local schools."
Daniel believes that you don’t have to be a Pacific teacher to have successful Pacific students.
"I think it’s just being adaptable to how students work and giving them scope, giving them time for themselves, giving them group time, giving them long periods where they can work.
"I think with the whole move towards 21st-century learning and modern learning environments we create opportunity for teachers, schools and students to use/try different ways of learning rather than traditional rote learning in a traditional setting that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.
"It’s an opportunity for us to really experiment and to try different things, to really support the learner, but not an isolated learner, a learner who is reflective of their family and their community."
While PowerUP Plus is soon wrapping up for the year, PowerStations will be starting up again in March 2019.
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