"Folauga" - Pacific health, well-being and success in higher education
Background Pacific peoples are migrants who have a unique and close relationship with Aotearoa New Zealand. The people of the realm countries, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, have the right to New Zealand citizenship, and Samoa has a Treaty of Friendship with New Zealand. People from many neighbouring Pacific Island countries travelled to New Zealand since the 1800s related to trades and employment. New Zealand also had a colonial relationship with some Pacific countries, and utilised the Pacific migrant labour workforce to support its agricultural and manufacture industries. Many Pacific peoples chose to remain in New Zealand for employment and education opportunities. Many have, however, not realised their hopes for better employment and education opportunities. Pacific peoples are disproportionately represented in poor health and education outcomes in New Zealand. The New Zealand Government and tertiary institutions have attempted to address this disparity over the years. Education is one of the determinants of health. Increasing the Pacific health workforce and improving education outcomes is likely to contribute to better employment opportunities and health outcomes for Pacific peoples in New Zealand. There is very little research on Pacific students studying towards a career in health in tertiary institutions. Understanding how best to support students in this environment will assist in enabling them to achieve their goals and aspirations. The specific objectives of this research are: 1. What are the enablers and barriers for Health Sciences Pacific students' transition in the first two years at university? 2. To what extent can the enablers and barriers for Pacific students in this study be understood in the context of Vincent Tinto’s theoretical model(s) with regards to first-year integration and retention? 3. What conceptual holistic theoretical model could be proposed that would be relevant for the experiences of Pacific students' success in higher education? Methods The Kakala Pacific research methodology and Talanoa method were utilised as the overarching Pacific research frameworks. Twenty students purposively sampled from all students who identified with at least one Pacific ethnicity enrolled at the University of Otago Health Sciences First Year Programme in 2015, were eligible for inclusion as participants. Eligible participants were stratified by ethnicity and gender and randomly selected to be invited for the research. Of the twenty participants, fifteen were recruited during the University Early Orientation Programme (EOP), and five were recruited from those who did not attend the EOP. Where a potential participant declined to be involved, the next person on the randomised list was approached. Participants signed a consent form which included the consent to participate and access to their academic performance and progress. Each participant was interviewed three times in their first year and once in their second year at university (80 planned interviews in total). All interviews were conducted at a time and place that suited the participants. Seventy-six of the total 80 interviews were completed, with an average time of 50 minutes for each interview. Two students left the University after their first year and were interviewed by telephone. Thematic analysis of the data was conducted utilising both inductive and deductive approaches, with information from the four interview periods, and for each participant across their four interviews. Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Otago Ethics Committee. Results The enablers and barriers were explored specifically for the areas outlined in Tinto’s Model. These were family background, individual attributes (skills/abilities), pre-college schooling (prior schooling), goal and institutional commitments, institutions academic and social systems integration, interactions with Faculty (staff) and the interactions between areas that can impact on students’ decision to drop out or persist at the University. The results showed that all components of Tinto’s Model were important for Pacific students, as they transitioned into the tertiary environment. There were, however, additional components identified inductively from the data that were very important for Pacific students, but not included in Tinto’s Model. These were culture, identity, and health and well-being. The components that were important for the participants’ health and well-being were: spiritual well-being, psychological well-being, physical well-being and social well-being. Discussion Tinto’s models were relevant for Pacific students in all their aspects, but could not explain in full, what was important for the integration and retention of Pacific students in higher education. These additional areas were related to their culture and identity as well as their health and well-being. Pacific Health is viewed in a holistic way and there were four components of their well-being that were identified from the data as important. These were their spiritual well-being, psychological well-being, physical well-being, and their social well-being. These aspects are aligned with Pacific models of health such as the Fonofale Model as well as the Hauora Māori Model of Health Te Whare Tapa Whā. These additional components will be important for institutions in New Zealand to consider, for effective support for Pacific students’ transitioning into the tertiary environment. To encompass all of these, this research proposes a revised Tinto model which includes these key components for the success of Pacific students in higher education. The new model is called Folauga. Folau or Folauga means The Journey in the Samoan language. Pacific peoples are navigators travelling long distances to populate the many islands in the Pacific using double-hull canoes (vaa or waka). The Folauga model is presented as an outrigger/canoe. The body of the vaa consists of the Tinto model. The additional components of the vaa consists of culture, identity and the four aspects of health and well-being. These additional components provide stability for the waka’s journey of success, for Pacific peoples in higher education. Conclusion/Recommendations This research provides recommendations that education institutions and the government ought to consider, to ensure effective support for the transition into, and the success of Pacific students in higher education: 1. Holistic Approach – a holistic approach is required for the effective support of Pacific students’ transition and success in higher education. 2. Cultural Capital – embracing the cultural capital Pacific students bring to the tertiary environment is critical to their success. 3. Identity – create an environment that is supportive of students’ diverse backgrounds and identities. • Health and Well-being – provide support for Pacific students’ spiritual, mental, physical and social well-being within the tertiary environment, ensuring both preventative interventions, and easy access to well-being and relevant pastoral care support. 4. Capacity Building – strategic investment in a national Pacific-coordinated pipeline encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects in schools (e.g. Health Sciences academies) to support students’ preparedness for tertiary studies. 5. Targeted support: • Academic support – increase investment in targeted academic support for Pacific students in tertiary studies, as many enter higher education lacking the required academic preparation from high schools. • Mentoring support – increase investment in mentoring programmes to support the transition of Pacific students into the tertiary environment, and where possible utilise senior Pacific students as mentors. 6. Racism – institutional leaders to take an active approach to address issues of institutional racism, and to show leadership through modelling positive behaviour. 7. Other – these findings and recommendations are relevant for all students. Much can be learned from this research project that can benefit students from all ethnicities.
Advisor: van der Meer, Jacques; Wilkinson, Tim; Nada-Raja, Shyamala
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Dean's Department, DSM
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Pacific; well-being; higher-education; first-year
Research Type: Thesis