Pasifika Education Plan Monitoring Report

The Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017 (the PEP) provides a strategic direction for improving education outcomes for Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand.


This monitoring report provides a national and regional picture of how Pasifika learners are progressing as the PEP is implemented. It gives us an idea of what level of progress is needed to achieve the PEP's goals and targets by 2017. Actions to improve outcomes in these identified areas are included in the PEP. The success of these actions will be analysed in this and subsequent monitoring reports to assess how we are progressing against the PEP targets.

Pasifika people have multiple world views and diverse cultural identities. They are able to operate and negotiate successfully through spiritual, social, political, cultural and economic worlds. Success in education requires harnessing Pasifika diversity within an enabling education system that works for young people, their families and communities. This requires the education system, leadership and curricula to start with the Pasifika learner and their family at the centre, drawing on the strength of their cultures, identities and languages. The more we understand the learner, the better we can respond to their needs, aspirations and achievement goals.

Pasifika demographics

As at the last census, Pasifika people made up approximately 7.4% of the total population, with 295,941 Pasifika people living in New Zealand in 2013. The growth of the Pasifika population continues to be a significant attribute to society in New Zealand. Pasifika was the fourth largest ethnic group in 2013, with 35.7% of their population under the age of 15 years. The success of the PEP is vital in contributing to the education of this fast growing group of young New Zealanders.

Population in New Zealand

In the 2013 census, the Pasifika population was 295,941, an increase of 11% since 2006 compared to an increase of 6% for Māori and an increase of 14% for the European population. The Pasifika population in New Zealand includes people of Pasifika descent born in New Zealand and people born in the Pacific Islands. They include people of Samoan, Cook Island Māori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, and Tokelauan ethnicity, as well as some people from smaller island communities. Samoan is the largest Pasifika ethnicity and Tongan is the fastest growing ethnicity.

Whilst the Pasifika population is growing, the proportion of Pasifika people born in the Pacific Islands and living in New Zealand is reducing (from 35% in 2006 to 30% in 2013), this trend is expected to continue. 

Two-thirds of the Pasifika people live in the Auckland region, with just over half of those living in South Auckland.  The next biggest region outside of Auckland is Wellington, which has a Pasifika population of 36,000.

There appears to be a trend for population flows outside of Auckland. Regions such as Marlborough, Tasman and the Manawatu are all experiencing small increases in Pasifika population. 

The difference in population profile, along with a higher fertility rate for the Pasifika population, will result in an increase in the number and proportion of Pasifika children and young people participating in ECE, schooling and tertiary sectors.  It is estimated that Pasifika students will rise from 10% to 20% of the total school population by 2050.

Age structure

In figure 0.1, we see that the structure of Pasifika peoples' age profile is such that it is profoundly disproportionate, with many younger people and very few elderly. In 2013, the median age of Pasifika was 22 years, compared to 38 years for the total population. With such a high proportion of the population in their youth, this only emphasises the importance of education to this fast growing population.


In 2013, just under two-thirds of Pasifika adults were in the labour force. The percentage of Pasifika peoples in the labour force aged 15-64 years who were employed decreased from 97.3% to 76.3% in 2007. Men continue to be more likely to be in the labour force than women, however, women in the labour force show greater diversity in occupation than men.


In 2013, the median annual income for Pasifika adults was $19,700, which is lower than the national median annual income of $28,500. Income levels are related to age and employment. As the Pasifika population has a large proportion of younger people, tending to have lower incomes of $5,000 or less, compared to older people, they more heavily contribute to the lower annual income.

Figure 0.1: Age-sex distribution of New Zealand Population, Pasifika and Total (2013)

Recent movements

In recent years, Pasifika learners showed improvement in many areas of education compared with nationwide general trends. Figure 0.2 shows a broad picture of where we are now in terms of the indicators, recent improvements and what improvement is required to reach the specific targets for the future.

Each spoke represents an indicator from this Report. The target for each measure has been adjusted to equal 1.00 (the black outer line). Each of the coloured lines represent the position of the indicator against the 2017 target for an individual year. The dark blue line represents the position of the indicator based on the 2016 data. A value of less than 1.00 means that the target has yet to be reached, while a value equal to or greater than 1.00 means the target has been achieved.

The distance between the dark blue line and the outer line shows how much change is required to reach the target. The distance between the dark blue line and the other years shows how much change has occurred in the past for that indicator. These distances are proportionately identical for each indicator.

Improvements have been made across all focus areas of the PEP, though action still needs to be taken to reach the targets set.

Figure 0.2: Proportion of target achieved (2010 to 2016)

Figure 0.2: Proportion of target achieved (2010 to 2016).

Where we are

The following section provides a summary of the latest year's performance against the PEP. Comparisons with non-Pasifika have been provided where relevant to the target set out in the PEP.

1. Early Childhood Education (ECE)

  • Participation in ECE has continued to improve. For the year ending December 2016, 92.9% of Pasifika new entrants participated in ECE prior to enrolling at school.
  • In 2014, 2.2% (96 services) of ECE services taught in a Pasifika language or culture over 50% of the time. This is the same number of services as in 2013.
  • In 2012, 21% of ECE services reviewed by the Education Review Office (ERO) were found to have either very or some responsive practices that enable Pasifika children to experience success. 
  • Across the 2014 calendar year, 1,475 Pasifika children (9.6% of all children) accessed and actively engaged in early intervention services.

2. Compulsory Education

  • In 2016, 66.0% of Pasifika students in Years 1-8 were at or above the National Standard for reading, 62.7% were at or above the standard for mathematics and 60.5% were at or above the standard for writing.
  • Ninety percent of all 2016 Pasifika school leavers achieved the NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy requirements.
  • Forty-three percent of Pasifika school leavers in 2016 gained a Level 3 or above qualification. This was a 1.9 percentage point increase on the 2015 attainment rate, although it is still 11.8 percentage points below that of non-Pasifika students.
  • Seventy-nine percent of all 2016 Pasifika 18-year-olds achieved NCEA Level 2 or above; a 1.1 percentage point increase since 2015.
  • In 2014, the number of Pasifika teachers in compulsory schooling increased by 11 teachers from 1,432 in 2013 to 1,443 in 2014.
  • The age-standardised suspension rate for Pasifika students in 2016 was 4.3 per 1,000 students, a 0.2 percentage point increase since 2015.
  • The age-standardised exclusion rate for Pasifika students in 2016 was 1.6 per 1,000 students, unchanged since 2015.
  • The age-standardised expulsion rate for Pasifika students in 2016 was 3.6 per 1,000 students, a 0.5 percentage point increase since 2015.
  • In 2014, ERO found that 78% of schools were mostly inclusive and 21% had some inclusive practices regarding including students with high special education needs.

3. Tertiary Education

  • In 2014, the proportion of Pasifika people aged 18 to 24 years in level 4 and higher qualifications decreased slightly to 28.4%. This is a 0.4 percentage point decrease on the participation rate in 2013.
  • Of Pasifika students aged 18 to 24 years who first enrolled in a level 4 qualification or above in 2013, 78.3% were still studying in 2014. This is 4.8 percentage points below the first-year retention rate for non-Pasifika students of 83.1%.
  • Of the full-time Pasifika students who began qualifications in 2010 at level 4 or above, 67.4% had completed this qualification by 2014. This compares to 74.3% for all domestic full-time students.

4. Education Sector Wide

  • In 2013, 69.1% of Pasifika ECE teachers were registered, an increase of 9% on the same measure in 2012.

5. Parents, families and communities

  • In 2014, 40.5% of schools had fair Pasifika representation on the schools' board of trustees. This is based both on the number of Pasifika students and the number of positions on the board. See the Technical Notes for a more detailed definition of this.
  • In a 2012 report, ERO identified five key factors that enabled educational success for Pasifika students, which included being actively engaged with Pasifika parents, families and communities. In many schools with low Pasifika achievement, these five key factors were not implemented correctly or needed strengthening.


  1. Quick Stats about Pacific Peoples Populations Structure Census 2013.
  2. Adults are people aged 15 years and over.