How to improve school-led-learning at home for Māori and Pasifika students

A new research paper titled School-led-learning at home: Voices of parents of Māori and Pasifika students has revealed the results of a survey on the experiences of Māori and Pasifika students in the first week of school-led learning at home due to COVID-19.

134 parents responded to the survey. These parents represented at least 105 primary and 79 secondary students from throughout New Zealand in English and Māori medium settings.

Most parents suggested improvements to how well school-led programmes and content affirms the identity, language or culture of their children: 60% of the parents of Māori students and 100% of the parents of Pasifika students. 

Common anxieties around school-let home learning

Parents were commonly worried about their children falling behind, even though some were enjoying the flexibility and freedom of at-home learning. Parents also reported tensions between school expectations and what is “realistically manageable”. This tension was especially present among parents working from home, with limited internet and/or with multiple children at home working on different programmes. 

According to the report: “Some parents felt that the expectations for self directed learning were beyond what the children could do, and therefore the children wanted help that could not be provided:

  • Not putting in effort as they think no one else is. Not taking learning at home seriously.
  • They don’t want to. It’s such a struggle.
  • Some days it’s hard to engage the primary aged child and I don’t have the skills to figure that out.
  • Children easily distracted from learning.
  • That my children are too young and get distracted easily. I get stressed trying to work with them and feel they are not getting the best they can from this .
  • That it’s all self learning. It’s very hard to teach yourself level three calculus and physics without teacher input.”

Fifteen parent responses detailed issues juggling different children on different programmes. One response said: “One child can’t access her Google  Classroom, so we are still waiting on a hardpack of mahi. Another child (12), has a huge amount of mahi. As a teacher, with four school aged kids (2 of whom are doing NCEA) it’s hard to monitor all children whilst managing my own online class.”

Another parent revealed the stuggles of parenting and teaching at the same time:

“I am a teacher so I am expected to be available and online for the students I teach also. Hard to support my own child when I’m also having to do that.”

Māori language issues

Parents shared their anxieties about supporting language learning. One respondent lamented, “trying to split my time and attention on one bilingual and 2 kura kaupapa children at different levels is something I’m struggling with”.

Others were concerned about wellbeing as social communication is increasingly restricted to online for many children and relationships outside the household are more difficult to maintain. 

Educational apps a source of stress

Many parents expressed concern about the number of different platforms and apps required for their children to comply with school-led learning at home programmes. 

“Remote learning from home is challenging with the various apps being used that are not compatible with their online classrooms. Seesaw etc. Time has been used searching and downloading apps that are suitable, causing anxiety for ākonga”

A lack of teacher contact was cited by parents, along with excessive workload as students are being asked to complete lots of work without much interaction. Younger children are finding it hard to engage through video chat and conferencing, according to some parents. 

For some families, not having the right devices or internet access has caused major stress. According to one respondent:

“Devices not sent out yet so already behind in NCEA learning.”

How schools can improve:

Adjust expectations: this was a common theme among suggestions made by parents. Many students have difficulty accessing the necessary technologies, or finding space at home to work. Can teachers provide more flexibility for students in these circumstances, where they are unable to attend every video conference or complete all their work within a certain timeframe?

More contact with teachers: while many parents commended teachers on their passion and hard work, they also noted lack of clarity around what students are supposed to be doing and large online class sizes that limit interaction with teachers. Two respondents suggested:

“If they had an online session with their teachers even 15 minutes to have a Q&A session for questions we cannot help with. They do say to email but I feel this method would be more helpful.”

“Can a teacher, or senior student check in on NCEA students to support or help with questions

Parents also requested more assistance with setting up their children on the various educational platforms. Some suggested video tutorials that can be replayed rather than a single video conference may assist with this, or a clear set of online instructions for all the different resources that are in one place to mitigate confusion about using so many different platforms.


“Their perspectives are shared in the hope that they might help schools provide equitable programmes whilst the restrictions on attending school in-person remain. But, perhaps even more importantly, the parent voices provide insights that could help refocus education in the longer term,” said  educational consultancy Evaluation Associates, who published the report.

Within the paper are sets of questions that have been developed for reflection and planning that can be used by teachers, kura/schools, and education decision makers. It is the belief of the company that these will support enhanced design, delivery, and home-school partnership with Māori and Pasifika parents.

“Our hope is that by sharing the voices of parents of Pasifika and Māori children, this paper might be a small step on the journey towards developing an education system that better meets the needs of all students”, said Dr Melanie Riwai-Couch, the lead author of this research paper and Kaihautū Māori at Evaluation Associates.

Riwai-Couch, M., Bull, A., Ellis, B., Hall, K., Nicholls, J., Taleni, T., Watkinson, R. (2020). School-led learning at home: Voices of the parents of Māori and Pasifika students. Auckland, Evaluation Associates Ltd.

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