Finding ways to change educational underachievement among Māori and Pacific young people required a new funding approach based on community-led solutions. The Māori and Pacific Education Initiative (MPEI) vision—Mā tātou anō tātou e kōrero, We speak for ourselves—captures the essence of the initiative, that communities know what is good for them.
Foundation North set aside substantial funds, and committed to a long-term, innovative investment approach that Trustees knew would be challenging but necessary, if community-led solutions to seemingly intractable problems were to be found.
The aspirations of these communities were clear, as Trustee Pat Snedden noted:
We want what others have: university enrolments; high paying jobs; people who are successful in their life careers whatever their field and confident about themselves and their culture. How come the state education system works for most people in the population but not for our peoples?
A community consultation and engagement process took time to define the issues, put them in context and to look for socially innovative responses. Community leaders and educational experts were invited to be part of a Māori Reference Group and a Pacific Reference Group; these groups then helped guide the specifications for an Expressions of Interest process that invited education institutions and communities to submit innovative ideas for funding.
The Foundation looked for projects that were able to be replicated and scaled up, with potential to impact on future education policy and infrastructural change for the betterment of Māori and Pacific students.
Over 300 expressions of interest were received. Six initiatives were initially selected for multi-year funding and support from the Foundation: C-Me Mentoring Trust; Ideal Success Trust; Unitec Graduate Diploma in Not-for-Profit Management; The Leadership Academy of A Company; Sylvia Park School/Mutukaroa; and the Rise UP Trust. In the second phase, funding and support was agreed for Manaiakalani Education Trust; The Starpath Project; High Tech Youth Academy; and the Maori into Tertiary Education (MITE) student pipeline project. (Click here to see our Digital Stories)
The projects offered a diverse range of solutions to the problem of educational underachievement—from early childhood to tertiary level—and their success demonstrates the acumen and ability Māori and Pacific communities have to generate compelling answers to the challenges they face. The impact of the Foundation’s MPEI programme has been significant.
- Sylvia Park School’s Mutukaroa home and school partnership programme, for example, which saw significant increases in student achievement, will be introduced to over 100 schools nationally by the end of 2015.
- The Manaiakalani Education Programme promotes new teaching and learning approaches across a growing cluster of decile 1 schools in the low income, predominantly Māori and Pacific communities of Tamaki The initial cluster was built up to include 12 schools in East Auckland, and there are now four other clusters that mirror the Manaiakalani model and two more clusters developing. Manaiakalani uses netbooks to give young learners access to digital citizenship and the worldwide web, engaging them as they “learn, create and share”; there is also professional development for teachers and a focus on family engagement.
- High Tech Youth Academy, based in Otara, helps students from primary level to age 24 to develop their skills in digital production and film making, animation, 3D gaming, visual design and robotics. The programme is such a success they have opened seven studios around New Zealand, as well in Fiji and Hawaii.
- C-Me Mentoring Trust is the programme behind Trades At School, a two year programme for secondary school students in Years 12 to 13, aged 16-18 years. The purpose is to transition from school to tertiary education, trade-training or paid employment. C-Me Mentoring is now funded by The Fono and is the model behind the new Oceania academy opening in 2016.
- Ideal Success Trust, based in Manurewa, is an education project which uses traditional values of family involvement and whānau to strengthen the families it works with. The education project, Ngā Huarahi Tika, works with schools to identify 10-year-olds who have the potential to do well, but are facing significant obstacles. It then runs a motivational programme that works closely with the students’ whānau. Families strengthened through the programme have had a positive impact on their children’s education, with improvements in students’ school attendance, engagement with learning and social skills.
- The Leadership Academy of A Company (He Puna Marama Trust) for Māori boys in Northland draws upon core values of the 28th Māori Battalion and three pou or platforms: “Be Māori, be rangatira and be educated”. It has proven successful, with 100% of students achieving NCEA qualifications. In 2014, He Puna Marama Trust was able to access funding as one of the first partnership schools opened by the Ministry of Education.
- Rise UP Trust began in February 2006 as a Saturday home schooling programme in the garage of its founder, Sita Selupe, a young Tongan primary school teacher on maternity leave. The founders believe that education and relationships are the keys to breaking the cycle of poverty. Evaluation data indicate the programme’s impact includes better family connectedness, higher academic achievement and greater engagement of whānau/aiga in their children’s education. Rise UP Academy opened as a partnership school in 2014 and has since doubled its roll.
- The Starpath Project focuses on transforming educational outcomes for students who are currently underachieving at secondary school and so are under-represented in tertiary education. It uses a longitudinal database to track student achievement; looks for ways to use evidence-based decisions about student’s progress, such as target setting and academic support; and also emphasises an evidence-based approach to literacy interventions.
In 2015 the final stage of the MPEI began; ‘Tohia te Tapairu’ – the Māori and Pacific Education Initiative (MPEI) Tamāhine Leadership Fund for programmes designed to create wahine Māori leaders.
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Impact of MPEI on Foundation North
MPEI was Foundation North’s first significant investment in high-engagement philanthropy. MPEI demonstrated the power of communities to identify and explore potential solutions to complex issues. The combination of multi-year, secure funding and capacity-building support from Foundation North to each initiative created optimum conditions for the potential of each innovation to be explored. A strong framework of monitoring and evaluation ensured that issues were identified and learnings captured throughout the process.
The impact of MPEI saw the Foundation create a dedicated funding stream, Catalysts for Change, which now provides the combination of funding and support to organisations addressing complex social issues in the Auckland and Northland region. Support for each Catalysts for Change partner is provided through the Foundation’s Centre for Social Impact. The Centre for Social Impact works alongside each organisation in leadership development, capacity building, programme design and evaluation. The Centre is also available to support investments in social innovation by other philanthropic trusts and community organisations.