Principal embraces research
MT ALBERT Primary School principal Enosa Auva’a is a rare find.
He represents 1.1 percent of New Zealand’s school leaders of Pacific Island descent.
It’s a fact he discovered in 2004 while researching his educational leadership and management thesis for his master’s degree.
Now with the help of a Fulbright-Cognition Education Research Trust scholarship, he will go a step further to discover why that is, in a bid to change it.
Mr Auva’a will use the scholarship to continue research into ethnic minority leadership, studying fulltime at the University of Hawaii in Manoa next year.
“The diversity of students in New Zealand schools is not reflected in leadership roles and the more people thinking about that can only be good for us,” says the 51-year-old.
“I hope my research can identify ways to inspire more minority school leaders in New Zealand. I feel privileged to be going as a representative of my people and my school.”
Mr Auva’a was born in Vailoa Faleata Samoa in 1958 and although his father was a Methodist minister, both his parents came from school teaching backgrounds before immigrating to New Zealand in 1970.
Growing up in Auckland, Mr Auva’a lived in Mt Eden and attended Auckland Normal Intermediate and Mt Albert Grammar School.
He met his wife Felicity, a primary school teacher, musician and local councillor, when they trained at teachers’ college and they have lived in Papakura for 30 years.
In Hawaii Mr Auva’a will study the stories and experiences of minority school leaders in the United States, to find out how aspiring minority teachers are encouraged toward senior management positions.
He says because of its larger population a lot can be learnt that could help limited knowledge of the field in this country.
“We just don’t have the critical mass to work from. I hope this research will promote reflection on the type of leadership required for a multicultural school.”
Concerned by the serious lack of minority leadership in education, Mr Auva’a’s research identified barriers faced by aspiring Pacific principals, such as racism, discrimination, levels of expectation and lack of confidence.
“These are personal and systemic conditions,” he says.
“Some were not confident about the appointment process or their qualifications even though they were university or masters graduates. Others lacked confidence in the system itself.”
A lack of professional support was also identified, which prompted Mr Auva’a to develop a national network in 2008 called the New Zealand Pasifika Principals Association.
“Ethnic minority leaders can make a significant contribution to raise student achievement by role modelling success and achieving rapport with ethnic communities and families,” Mr Auva’a says.
His career in education spans three decades and he has been the principal of Mt Albert Primary School since 1991.
“It is a beautiful and friendly community,” he says.
“It’s well resourced and there are a mix of ethnicities. It’s got a lovely profile of what I call Aucklanders.”
He has three school terms to prepare for his five-month sabbatical. When he returns he will present his findings to the Fulbright-Cognition Education Research Trust and the Education Ministry.
Hawaii calling: Mt Albert Primary School principal Enosa Auva’a is taking his research overseas with the help of a Fulbright scholarship.