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Pacific approach to learning broadens vision

Like woven mats, where many pandanus leaves contribute to the result, Pacific success is a result of the contributions of many people.

Support comes from family, community, peers, tutors, mentors and friends and is an essential element in any Pacific success story.

Unitec’s Graduate Certificate in Pacific NGO Management and Leadership acknowledges this factor with a uniquely Pacific approach to learning.

The course is run from different Pacific locations, and students love having ‘the University come to them’. Four times a year, for a week at a time, the students and Unitec tutors travel to one location in the Pacific.

Courses were delivered in Fiji and Papa New Guinea (PNG) in 2012/2013 at the request of ‘The Packard Foundation,’ with another two courses due to run in 2014, in PNG and Samoa.

Combined approach

Students are encouraged to take the lead in determining the content that is most relevant to their needs as community leaders and conservation managers. The course combines Western theories and Pacific traditional approaches to create a learning environment the students can relate to.

Barbara Gigimat, a course graduate from PNG, said that how the course provided a great opportunity for all participants to share knowledge and experiences with others in the Pacific.

“We were in isolation struggling and trying to work out answers. Unitec provided the space for students to share ideas and practice they currently use in their communities and build upon these strategies with input from other students. This opportunity to build networks and share ideas has now benefitted many people and communities in the Pacific,” she said.

World view

Programme Leader Sandy Thompson said that Unitec recognises the importance of understanding the worldview of Pacific students.

“If we understand our students’ contexts, understand their worldview, and guide them appropriately, they will succeed. This insightful approach to Pacific learning has undoubtedly contributed to a graduate completion rate of over 90%. We know that what we teach works, and we only teach what is useful, applicable and appropriate,” she said.

Helen Rei, a graduate, said that the students also learnt the technique of communicating effectively with local communities and other cultures.

“The strategies that I learnt on the course helped me to change mind sets in these communities. I helped them to expand their existing knowledge to protect resources,” she said.


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