Relational cultural identity and Pacific Language education


  • Juliet Kennedy Victoria University of Wellington


Pacific language education, vā, cultural identity construction, relationality, culturally sustaining pedagogy


This article investigates how two Pacific language programmes in secondary schools outside of the broader region of Auckland, New Zealand, enabled an exploration, celebration, and deepening of vā (relational space) through language, and contributed to identity construction of students of Samoan and Tongan heritage. As the relational lens is rarely applied to language education, this study contributes to a new perspective of language education and identity research. It does so by looking at the complexity of vā in relation to language education and demonstrates how examining language education through the perspective of vā helps us to understand the relationship between language development and our physical, spiritual, cultural, and intellectual being. Findings show how Pacific language education can provide opportunities for students to develop relational Oceanic identities by strengthening connections in the vā between community, one’s own language and other Oceanic peoples. In supporting construction of cultural identity, this small-scale study emphasizes benefits of providing heritage language programmes in secondary schools to promote culturally sustaining pedagogies which value and develop knowledges of home and school.






Vol 18 (2) OCIES ECR Special Edition