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Relating to the va: Re-viewing the concept of relationships in Pasifika education in Aotearoa New Zealand

Martyn Reynolds


Intercultural understanding is required for effective intercultural education. The education of Pasifika students (those with cultural and/or family ties to Pacific Islands) living in Aotearoa New Zealand is a negative case in point. Research has linked Pasifika educational achievement to the quality of relationships between teachers and Pasifika students, but has generally stopped short of framing the discussion through Pasifika concepts. This article explores the concept of va (relationship/relatedness) for its potential in telling a relational story in Pasifika conceptual language. It provides grounds for a more nuanced discussion of relationships in Pasifika education by addressing the breadth and transformational power of the application of va. If Pasifika educational research seeks to represent the world as Pasifika students experience it, an awareness of va has its place both in the classroom and in the New Zealand education system as a whole. Appreciating va can make a contribution to intercultural education through deeper intercultural understanding.

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