Whitireia and WelTec implement new Māori and Pacific-led model to support student success

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Whitireia and WelTec have developed an innovative new approach to support ākonga Māori and Pacific ākonga, the first of its kind at a polytechnic.

The institutions have launched a new framework of support and learning development for ākonga Māori and Pacific ākonga. It is governed by Te Kawenata Ākonga Māori and Pacific, an agreement between the Dean of Te Wānanga Māori, Kaiwhakahaere Māori, and Chief Advisor Pacific Strategy.

The model was borne from reflections on Te Pūkenga Tiriti o Waitangi excellence framework, Te Pae Tawhiti, and was informed by focus groups, staff surveys and reviewed documentation.

In a unique arrangement, Whitireia and WelTec Iwi partners are heavily involved in the initiative, with Ngāti Toa Rangatira leading the new ākonga support services available at Whitireia in Porirua from March, and Te Ǡti Awa Tamaiti Whangai model of support for ākonga Māori, which has been in place at WelTec for more than 10 years, getting significantly expanded.

“What we have found is that a ‘for Māori by Māori’ or ‘for Pacific by Pacific’ educational approach is what resonates with ākonga and best supports their learning and progress,” says Mark Oldershaw, Chief Executive at Whitireia and WelTec.

“Programmes like the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT), the Bachelor of Nursing Māori, and Bachelor of Nursing Pacific, which are appropriately culturally tailored, are extremely well received by ākonga and lead to great achievements for them. We’ve recognised what works and want to make this approach more consistent across our campuses to give our ākonga every chance of success.”

Mark Oldershaw, Whitireia and WelTec Chief Executive

Mark Oldershaw, Whitireia and WelTec Chief Executive

Under Te Kawenata Ākonga Māori and Pacific teams across all campuses will work more closely together, will receive greatly increased staffing and resources, and will find further opportunities to develop bespoke responses and methods of support whether it is academic, pastoral, or cultural.

This has already informed the recent launch of the Wai Ora service, which recognises the unmet mental health and hauora needs of ākonga Māori and Pacific ākonga, it is offered across all campuses and ākonga can access as individuals or in small groups, in person or online.

Hinemoa Priest, Kaiwhakahaere Māori, and Manager of the Tamaiti Whāngai team, has seen first hand the positive impact on ākonga when Māori are responsible for Māori and is excited by the changes occurring. “We have the full support of the executive and a chance to remove the barriers that exist for ākonga Māori,” says Mrs Priest.

“No other institution has a programme that is run like this, it is an original idea that will hopefully inspire others.”

“Ākonga will see reflections of themselves, and their culture, in the leadership and direction of their education, says Jeanette Grace, Dean of Te Wananga Māori.

Chief Advisor of Pacific Strategy at Whitireia and WelTec, Jean Mitaera, believes that the more Māori and Pacific cultures are embedded into curriculum and support approaches the more ākonga will have opportunity to learn in a way that suits them, with teaching more responsive to their context, leading to greater successes.

“There’s no one kind of Pacific ākonga. Our job is to learn their strengths early and tailor our support - helping them at the beginning of their education journey rather than intervening when they’re struggling,” says Ms Mitaera.

“We work with tutors and advisors to support ākonga and check in regularly to stay close to each ākonga.

Te Kawenata Ākonga Māori and Pacific will continue to implement changes throughout 2022, beginning with the increasing support for pastoral care across the campuses, and continuing with new education offerings in the future designed for ākonga Māori and for Pacific ākonga.

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