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Exploring Tapasā

Tapasā is a cultural competencies framework for teachers. In this resource, explore the history of Tapasā, the Pasifika Success Compass and why you should work with Tapasā.

Tapasā Cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners.


  • AudienceSchool leadersKaiako
  • Resource LanguageEnglish

About this resource

The Tapasā framework brings Pacific perspectives to effective and quality teaching practice at different stages of a teacher's journey in key areas and transition points for Pacific learners in early learning, primary, and secondary education.

Use Tapasā as a foundation document to:

  • support governance, strategic, and programme planning
  • develop local curriculum
  • develop induction, mentoring, and appraisal systems
  • guide professional learning and development.

Use Tapasā, along with other sources, to inform Pacific achievement aspirations across your school and Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako.


Exploring Tapasā

First and foremost, Tapasā is a resource for all teachers of Pacific learners. It is designed to support teachers to become more culturally aware, confident, and competent when engaging with Pacific learners and their parents, families, and communities. It aims to contextualise quality teaching and learning within a Pacific learner setting by providing a Pacific lens to the Standards for the Teaching Profession and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Tapasā is also an important resource in other areas. It can be used as a foundation document to develop further resources to support governance, strategic and programme planning; developing local curriculum; induction, mentoring and appraisals; and professional learning and development. It can be used along with other sources to inform Pacific achievement aspirations across a network of educational learning services, such as Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako. Teacher training providers might also find Tapasā useful in programme design that is responsive to the needs of Pacific learners, their parents, families, and communities. (Tapasā, p. 6)

Download a digital copy of Tapasā on the Teaching Council website or by selecting the following link:

To order a copy, visit Down the Back of the Chair. Use item code MOE69360.


The principles in Te Tiriti o Waitangi underpin decisions and practice at all levels of education in Aotearoa New Zealand. First and foremost, tangata whenua and all migrants to Aotearoa New Zealand are included in the context of the partnership of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Pacific parents, families, and communities highly value education and choose to migrate to Aotearoa New Zealand to educate their children and communities and enable them to reach their full potential. Migrants to Aotearoa New Zealand bring diverse beliefs, values, and world views that include concepts relating to language, faith, spirituality, child-rearing practices, kinship roles, obligations, codes of behaviour, respect, parental aspirations for their children, and so on. It is imperative that these life approaches are acknowledged, valued, honoured, and respected throughout Aotearoa New Zealand society. The education sector meets this obligation by laying out requirements for cultural responsiveness in a range of governance, management, leadership, and curriculum documents alongside teaching standards and codes of practice.

From a bicultural foundation, Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa, 2017 early childhood curriculum supports the identities, languages, and cultures of all children, affirms and celebrates cultural differences, and aims to help children gain a positive awareness of their own and other cultures.

The cultural diversity principle is one of eight principles in The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision-making. The cultural diversity principle calls for schools and teachers to deliver a curriculum that:

  • reflects our linguistically and culturally diverse nation
  • affirms students’ different cultural identities
  • incorporates students' cultural contexts into teaching and learning programmes
  • is responsive to diversity within ethnic groups
  • helps students understand and respect diverse viewpoints, values, customs, and languages.

In the early 1980s, Pacific migrants began their journey to retain and pass on their identities, languages, and cultural values by establishing Pacific Early Childhood service language nests. These language nests formed the basis of Pacific early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Pacific population in Aotearoa New Zealand is a dynamic and diverse community made up of over sixteen distinct ethnicities, languages, and cultures. These population numbers are growing, and data shows that in 2018 there were 143,980 Pacific children and young people in the age range for access to early childhood education and schooling. Some estimates indicate that Pacific learners will make up approximately 20% of learners in Aotearoa New Zealand by 2050.

Historically, evidence consistently identified that Pacific students in Aotearoa New Zealand were underachieving in their educational outcomes. The first strategy for lifting the achievement of Pasifika learners began in 1996, through a process that created a Pasifika framework. In 2001, government strategies and policies emerged to support the Pasifika Education Plan (PEP) for Pasifika alongside the Māori education strategy of Ka Hikitia - Managing for success: The Māori education strategy 2008–2012.

After further consultation and in recognition of outcomes from the PEP, the Ministry of Education commissioned work to develop a Pasifika Competency Framework that has evolved into Tapasā.

Current government strategies to improve educational outcomes for Pacific learners include targeted professional learning opportunities to help kaiako understand and implement culturally responsive pedagogies. Government strategy also focuses on improving the cultural responsiveness of decision-making and processes and policies of educators in leadership and governance roles.

Significantly, the Action Plan for Pacific Education 2030 vision seeks to ensure that the education sector will implement key system shifts to enable Pacific learners, their families, and communities to achieve their educational aspirations.

The vision is to ensure that all Pacific learners are secure in their identities, languages, and cultures; that they achieve educational success as Pacific people; and contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s social, cultural, and economic wellbeing.

The Pasifika Success Compass.

The Pasifika Success Compass captures the essence of the PEP—it places Pacific learners, parents, families, and communities at the centre of the compass. The points of the compass are nine values that are key to Pacific peoples' ways of knowing, being, and doing—the values that underpin Pacific world views.

These key values are:

  • reciprocal relationships
  • leadership
  • inclusion
  • service
  • respect
  • spirituality
  • belonging
  • alofa (love)
  • leadership.

The fundamental elements of engagement, participation, and achievement are crucial to attaining highly effective learning outcomes. For Pacific learners and their families and communities, these elements are attained through alignment and compatibility between home and educational environments. Reciprocal partnerships and engagement between all stakeholders ensure collaborative participation and shared understandings.

The Ministry of Education, partner agencies, and the wider education sector recognise that they must engage with and respond to the shared identities, languages, and cultures unique to each Pacific group by drawing on the processes, methodologies, theories, and knowledge of each group.

We also need to acknowledge that Pacific cultures and ways of doing things are dynamic and constantly evolving. Pacific cultural paradigms and nuances are not fixed. The same is true for identity: the identities of Pacific learners and teachers are shifting and changing beyond traditional notions of cultural identity.

Tapasā is informed by this knowledge and provides a framework to support teachers and leaders to engage, challenge, shift, and transform their ways of thinking and practices, and understandings of Pacific success. Tapasā brings Pacific perspectives to teaching practice in key areas and transition points for Pacific learners in early learning, primary, and secondary settings. This will support Pacific learners to participate and succeed in tertiary education, the workplace, and beyond. Tapasā builds on the PEP and weaves together the many small but significant strands of Pacific-focused classroom theories and practices.

Stylised image of a vaka with Tapasā icons in the sails.

Tapasā is a Samoan term that can be loosely translated as a navigation compass. Our Pacific ancestors successfully voyaged across oceans in search of knowledge, prosperity, and growth. They navigated across the Pacific by reading the stars and constellations, marking the winds, and mapping the currents. In the education context, the concept of Tapasā as a compass becomes a tool that can be used to guide and increase the capability of all teachers of Pacific learners.

Using Tapasā as a compass fulfils a twin purpose of being both a guide for teachers as they navigate their own journey in becoming more culturally aware and competent, and as a symbol of the learning pathway that Pacific learners and their families undertake.