1. Early Childhood Education

What We Have Found

For the year ending December 2016 92.9% (7,467 students) of Pasifika new entrant students had previously participated in ECE. This was an increase of 1.1 percentage points from the year ending December 2015, larger than that for non-Pasifika.

In 2014, 96 ECE services taught in a Pasifika language or culture over 50% of the time. This was the same number of services as in 2013.

In 2014, 15,415 children accessed and engaged in Early Intervention services. Of those children, 1,475 or 9.6% identified as Pasifika, an increase of 1.0 percentage points since 2013.

In a report released by the Education Review Office (ERO) in 2013, 21% of ECE services reviewed in terms one, two and three in 2012 had either very responsive or some responsive practices in place that enabled Pasifika children to experience success.

What we are trying to achieve

  1. Pasifika children start school well prepared for education success.
  2. All Pasifika parents, families and communities understand and value the importance of early learning.
  3. ECE services are culturally intelligent and effectively engage Pasifika children, parents, families and communities.


  • The proportion of Pasifika children who have participated in ECE prior to starting school will increase to 98% in 2016.
  • By 2016, increase the number of Pasifika ECE Language Services teaching in a Pasifika language or culture over 50% of the time.
  • Increase the percentage of Pasifika learners, with special education needs aged 0-5 years accessing early intervention services from 9% in 2012 to 13% in 2016.
  • By 2017, 85% of ECE services reviewed by ERO are effective for Pasifika children.

Why this is important

Time spent in ECE enhances future learning. New Zealand studies1 have shown that time spent in ECE has a significant positive relationship to academic achievement well into secondary schooling years. This is important because it confirms a range of international research that demonstrates the ongoing influence of ECE on children's learning.

How We Are Going

Prior participation in early childhood education

The Pasifika Education Plan target for 2016 was to have 98% of all Pasifika new entrants with prior participation in early childhood education.

Pasifika new entrants continue to have the lowest level of prior participation of all ethnic groups. In the year ending December 2016, the proportion of Pasifika new entrants having participated in ECE was 92.9%.

Although the level of participation is lower for Pasifika children, the rate at which Pasifika participation is increasing faster than for non-Pasifika. Between December 2015 and December 2016, the proportion of Pasifika children having participated in ECE before enrolling in school rose 1.1 percentage points from 91.8% to 92.9%. In comparison the non-Pasifika rate rose only 0.2 percentage points, so although the PEP target was not met, the gap between Pasifika and non-Pasifika participation is decreasing.

Information on some actions being taken to improve Pasifika participation in ECE is available in the section Early Learning Taskforce.

Figure 1.1: Percentage of new entrants with prior early childhood education, by ethnicity (2009-2016)


  1. Total response ethnicity is used in this measure, for more information see Technical Notes.

Early childhood education services

Since 2009, the proportion of ECE services teaching in a Pasifika language or culture over 50% of the time has remained more or less constant. Though the number of services has shown some fluctuation ranging from 89-98 services over the period 2009-2014.

In 2014, 96 services (2.2% of all services) reported using a Pasifika language for more than 50% of the time (the same number as in 2013). There were 61 services where a Pasifika language was spoken more than 80% of the time (compared with 54 services in 2013). Samoan and Tongan were the languages most used in these services. In 2016, the target set out in the PEP is to increase the number of Pasifika language services. There has been no change in the number of Pasifika services between 2013 and 2014, and based on past trends, we are unable to predict whether or not this target will be achieved in 2016.

Figure 1.2: Number and percent of Pasifika ECE Language Services (2009-2014)

Early Intervention Services

Early Intervention services provide specialist support for children who have a developmental or learning delay, a disability, a behaviour difficulty or a communication difficulty that significantly affects their ability to participate and learn at home or in an ECE setting.

The PEP target is to increase the percentage of children accessing early intervention services who are Pasifika from 9% in 2012 to 13% in 2016.

In 2014, 1,475 Pasifika children accessed early intervention services. This equated to 9.6% of all children accessing early intervention services. This was an increase of 188 Pasifika children and 1.0 percentage point since 2013.

Figure 1.3 shows the proportion of children accessing Early Intervention services who are Pasifika in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Overall, the total number of children accessing early Intervention services has increased from 13,025 in 2012 to 15,415 in 2014.

Both the proportion and the number of children who are Pasifika and accessing early Intervention services has increased since 2012. This shows positive progress has been made towards meeting targets set out in the PEP.

Figure 1.3: Percentage of children accessing early intervention services who are Pasifika (2012-2014)


  1. Total response ethnicity is used in this measure, for more information see technical notes in Appendix 2.

Effectiveness of early childhood education services for Pasifika children

The Pasifika Education Plan target for the effectiveness of ECE services for Pasifika children is to have 85% of ECE services reviewed by ERO to be effective for Pasifika children by 2017.

ECE services that displayed effective practices implemented a curriculum that was highly reflective of their identified priorities for children's learning.

In these ECE services, curriculum decisions, assessment practices and self-review processes were aligned to, and reflected, the priorities identified as important for children's learning. The priorities took into consideration the aspirations of parents, families and communities, children's strengths and interests and the philosophy and vision of the service. These services were more likely to be responsive to Pasifika children's identity, language and culture.

The most recent ERO review of this was documented in a 2013 report. This was based on services reviewed in terms one, two and three in 2012; judgements were made regarding how responsive each service's curriculum was in supporting Pasifika success.

Based upon the sample of around 600 ECE services, only 21% of these services were found to have either very responsive or some responsive practices that enabled Pasifika children to experience success. These practices included employing Pasifika teachers, implementing an appropriate curriculum using best practice pedagogy, strong partnerships with parents and recognising and celebrating cultural events.Based upon judgements made by ERO, more action is needed to reach the 2017 target of 85% of ECE services reviewed by ERO will be effective for Pasifika children.

Figure 1.4: ECE services responsiveness to Pacific children (2012)

What Are We Doing?

Early Learning Taskforce

The Early Learning Taskforce was established to focus on reaching the BPS target of "in 2016 98% of new entrants will have participated in quality Early Childhood Education". Its approach is to attract, locate, engage, retain and tailor solutions to ensure vulnerable children and their families enjoy the benefits of ongoing, quality early learning. The concept of "local intelligence, plus local people, equals solutions" reflects the need to ensure sustainability by building around community strength.  Each community knows what will work best for itself. The Early Learning Taskforce has worked with priority communities to support local initiatives, innovation and action that stimulate demand for early learning, and increase ECE participation by our youngest learners.  It aims to increase participation in ways that support and value the identity, language and culture of the community.

Alongside the community partnerships we collaborate with early learning providers, iwi, Māori organisations, Pasifika churches and organisations as well as other Government agencies. These connections have been a critical component of success to date.

The Taskforce also uses a range of strategies to lift priority learner participation and achievement including:

  • Pasifika Church Partnership Strategy (PCPS) - establishing long term sustainable partnerships with Pasifika church communities, to leverage off their access to large cohorts of Pasifika parents and families. The aim is for each Pasifika church denomination to champion the work of the Early Learning Taskforce and help co-construct early learning solutions and increase demand.
  • Pasifika Organisation Partnership Strategy (POPS) - leveraging off relationships with specific national Pasifika organisations and establishing new partnerships with national Pasifika organisations to leverage off their network of Pasifika parents and families.
  • The Ekalesia Fa'apotopotoga Kerisiano i Niu Sila Trust (EFKS NZ Trust) have established Puna Kainga playgroups in seven of their church communities. They have currently enrolled 76 children with 34 aged between 3 and 4 years of age.
  • Tamariki and Youth of Manukau Trust (TYMT) is one of the Pasifika organisations that are making great progress in increasing participation in ECE in Otara. TYMT has supported 21 Pasifika three and four year olds and their families to enrol into early learning.TYMT is a social service provider that deals with Child Youth and Family referrals specifically vulnerable Pasifika families.

Other examples of Early Learning Taskforce initiatives focused on Pasifika learners are:

  • In South Auckland a bus has been travelling around festivals, sports events and markets, with trained personnel telling families about ECE and handing out information. The SMARTBUS concept was developed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, and the project has enrolled over 280 children.
  • Implementation of a new initiative, Puna Kāinga, that focuses on 4 year old children that have not previously participated in ECE. Puna Kāinga is different to other ways of delivering ECE in that it accelerated and tailored (has a focused programme for 4 year old children), and it provides meaningful learning experiences that allow the children to develop some school readiness prior to turning five (including a specific focus on transition to school).


  1. See the Competent Children, Competent Learners publication series on the Education Counts website.
  2. Education Review Office. (2013). Priorities for Children's Learning in Early Childhood Services. Wellington: Education Review Office.