Poliana P. Fa’oliu-Havea

Poliana PicName: Poliana P. Fa’oliu-Havea

School: School of Education

Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Law and Educatio

Degree of Enrolment: Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Research Area: AKO and VA’INGA: A Tongan Conceptualisation of the Playing and Learning Child – Implications for Learning in the Early Years

Supervisors: Dr Cresantia F. Koya-Vaka’uta and Dr David W. Gegeo

Current Research Summary:

The early years (ages 0-8) are of prime importance in the holistic development of young children. At this stage, children often engage in a sequence of spontaneous (free) and structured va’inga (play) intensifying their ability and opportunity to develop. Children’s elevated ability to learn (ako) is a beneficial outcome of that development so the universal notion that va’inga contributes to early learning, of it being a useful and powerful learning tool and strategy within the home and school environment and the need for it to be examined within specific cultures stimulated this study.

The study applies an ethnographic approach to obtain perceptions of Tongan parents and preschool teachers of their ideas and behaviours of and towards childhood va’inga. Using bricolage within the scope of complexity theory aids to understand the existing discourse of ako and va’inga and the inquiry of forging culturally inclusive approaches that are relevant for Tonga. The process and outcomes of the study further contribute to improving quality and meaningful teaching and learning pedagogies for the early years, to inform educational planning and curriculum mapping and to support the on-going Rethinking Pacific Education Initiative for and by Pacific People (RPEIPP) or Vaka Pasifiki – a movement I believe should be embraced by all Pacific educators.

Testimonial- Graduate Assistant Scholarship Scheme:

This regional GAship has enabled the prospect of personal/professional development and capacity building within my line of work as a Pacific educator, as a mother of young early learners and as an emerging Pacific scholar in academia. I am grateful for the opportunity and have taken the initiative to embrace every scholarly role and expectation in its entirety. USP and its focus on developing the Pacific region for people who live and work in Oceania stimulated my decision to continue doctoral studies here. The welcome, support and assistance from my school and faculty are also valuable assets in this aspiration.

The journey is however a challenging one but with persistence and the solid chain of endless support from my family, friends, colleagues and my supervisors make the voyage easier, more flexible and all the more enticing. There is nothing a good heart and a sound mind cannot conquer. Being happy and making others happy as well as supporting each other brings fulfilment and an extra boost of completion. I welcome this stepping stone to upgrade my status to an academic but more genuinely to contribute to the wealth of meaningful and quality education and learning for my people and the people of Oceania – ‘Ofa atu.