Reviewing the literature on Pacific students’ Underachievement

Project code:  ART039

Disciplinary Area

Pacific Studies


The project investigates literature on Pacific students’ underachievement.  Much of the literature on Pacific students’ underachievement is wary of saying that Pacific students need to work harder or manage their time better for fear (I suspect) of being accused of blaming the Pacific students themselves or of using a “deficit” approach to the problem. I suspect that as many of the writers on this topic are pālangi (pakeha), they would feel that it would be politically incorrect for them to say anything that would appear they are critical of Pacific people. Because I am part of the Pacific community, and I work with Pacific students all the time, my experience is that many Pacific students use up their study time doing a lot of community and cultural things, thus robbing them of the amount of time they need to complete their study activities and consequently do well. The project, therefore, aims at investigating a selection of this literature to find out if this is really the case, and if it is, then it is important to contribute to the search for “solutions” by writing about the need to distinguish between advocating changes to Pacific students’ study behaviour and so-called deficit theorising.  

Scholar’s Work

They would need to do a library and archival search to identify literature on the underachievement of Pacific students at school levels and tertiary levels. Then they would read selected literature and compile the main reasons / explanations for underachievement. They would sort these reasons into sections e.g. blame the school / institution, blame the government and other leaders, blame the socio-economic situation (poverty etc.), blame pakeha, and blame the Pacific peoples themselves. At the end of the project, the scholar should write a report on their findings including a list of the literature investigated. 

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

Good English reading skills.

It is an advantage to speak a Pacific language or Maori, but it is not essential.

It is an advantage to study or to have studied Pacific Studies but it is not essential.

Good time management skills.