UC Education specialist the first Pasifika researcher to win education award
University of Canterbury (UC) Pasifika Education specialist Tufulasi Taleni
has been awarded the 2017 NZARE Rae Munro Award for excellence for his Master’s thesis – the first Pasifika researcher
to receive the award.
Described as “an outstanding postgraduate student”, Mr Taleni completed his Master’s thesis at UC earlier this year and
received the highest of accolades with an A+ from both examiners.
His thesis – ‘E saili i tautai se agava’a: A true leader masters the art of navigation’: The impact of effective leadership in
raising engagement and achievement of Pasifika learners in New Zealand schools – focused on the influence that effective educational leadership has on improving outcomes for learners.
Mr Taleni’s thesis examined a critical issue in New Zealand, specifically, lifting Pasifika achievement. His thesis
argued that Pasifika students have, for too long, been trapped in an environment of underachievement, and that little
has changed since the 1960s and ’70s, despite Ministry of Education endeavours to address the crisis in Pasifika
education and the effect this has on the outcomes for Pasifika individuals and communities.
Mr Taleni used the analogy of a voyage (folauga) to present his thesis. He contextualised and captured the essence of
his research topic in relation to the challenges presented by a long, hard-fought voyage. Mr Tufulasi is intent on
placing Pasifika methodologies at the forefront of his research activities, and he used Talanoa to collect his data,
thus ensuring his thesis is grounded in Pasifika epistemologies, pedagogy and practices.
“Lifting Pasifika achievement is a great challenge for all but nothing is impossible. ‘E o’o lava i ogasami ile moana
sausau e mafai lava ona folauina’ ‘Even choppy sea can be navigated’,” Mr Taleni says.
UC Associate Professor Jo Fletcher
, one of Mr Taleni’s supervisors, described him as scholar of exceptional insight, a major force in university affairs,
and a tireless advocate for his people.
“Tufulasi’s exceptional thesis is evidence of his outstanding ability to navigate the choppy seas of postgraduate
research and anchor his thesis in the field of Pasifika education. It will be a highly sought after piece of research by
teachers, policy-makers and leaders alike,” she says.
“Tufulasi has made an immense contribution to education, manifested in numerous forms. The Rae Munro Award will
recognise one aspect of his contribution to Pasifika education, that is, his exceptional Master of Education thesis,
endorsed with First Class Honours.”
His co-supervisor, Professor of Maori Research Angus Hikairo Macfarlane
, says, “Tufulasi himself is an exemplary navigator. With teachers he plans the schooling journey, and provides advice
and guidance so as to improve the options in achieving better outcomes for Pasifika learners.”
Following a career as a teacher, in 2002 Mr Taleni joined Education Plus, the professional development arm of UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development
. In his current role at UC as Kaiārahi Pasifika, Mr Taleni is responsible for fostering and enhancing the relationship
with the Pasifika community and promoting Pasifika education and achievements throughout the College of Education,
Health and Human Development, UC and the wider educational community.
He holds a leadership role in the Government’s 10-year National Science Challenge A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea
. He also established the University of Canterbury Pasifika Talanoa Centre where community learners come together to
raise Pasifika achievement. Mr Taleni regularly leads cultural interchanges between UC and Samoan educational centres,
villages, and families.
The Rae Munro Award honours the outstanding contribution of the late Dr Raeside Munro to educational research and
teaching practice. Since 1996, it has been awarded annually for an excellent Master’s-level thesis by an NZARE member in
an area which has implications for teacher education or classroom practice. The award consists of a written citation and
a cash prize of $750. Mr Tufulasi shared the 2017 award with Clair Wilson of Massey University.