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Current situation

Kama and Falala are two Tongan educators who work for the same service provider.

Kama is in her late 50s and Tongan is her native language. She can speak some English, but doesn’t need to use it very often because the people she interacts with every day speak Tongan. Kama looks after three ECE-aged children: her grandchild, her brother’s grandchild, and her sister’s grandchild.

Kama enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and instilling Christian values – she likes teaching the children bible stories and verses. The children’s parents trust her and like that their culture is being passed on. She does not charge the parents for looking after their children.

Falala is in her 20s and Tongan is her native language. She can communicate in English, but left school with no qualifications. She looks after three of her nieces and nephews. She likes the close connection with her family, but would like broader opportunities and doesn’t want to remain an educator forever. She does not charge her siblings for looking after their children.

The service provider is a standalone service run by a Tongan-speaking, NZ-trained ECE teacher. There are two coordinators in the service – the service provider and another ECE teacher who speaks Samoan and Tongan. The educators are mainly Tongan, with a few Samoan educators. They are all in the same community and in a relatively small geographic radius.

The service does not belong to either of the home-based peak bodies. The service only has a licence for 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. The service provider pays educators $3 per child per hour. This fee does not change with the child’s age or when the child is eligible for 20 Hours ECE. The service provider provides groceries to educators from time to time. The service provider also provides toys and equipment for the children (such as high chairs), which are sourced from TradeMe.

The service provider puts on a playgroup every Monday in a community hall, but this is limited to 12 children, which means that each educator attends one playgroup a month. The small number of children at the playgroup means the coordinators are able to observe educator practice and provide feedback. The coordinators visit their educators once a month and often take calls at night from educators. The service provider is enthusiastic about a level 4 qualification for educators, as she sees that it would provide a useful base knowledge for her educators and make it easier for her to influence their practice.

What the changes could mean

The signal that level 4 will become a requirement one day means that the service provider encourages her educators to enrol in the level 4. Those with good English and who are eligible for fees-free enrol. This is less than a quarter of the educators in the service, but includes the second educator above. The service provider and the other coordinator support these educators by holding study groups at night where they discuss the course work in Tongan and help the educators to complete their assignments. Most educators do not have computers and some do not know how to use computers, so completing written assignments is challenging.

Falala completes her qualification in two years. Gaining a qualification improves her understanding of child development and improves the activities she does with her nieces and nephews. It also gives her confidence, which means she looks for work outside of her family and starts work in an ECE centre on minimum wage.

When the level 4 qualification is available in Tongan and Samoan, most of the educators in the service enrol in the qualification, including the Kama. She qualifies for fees-free. The support offered by the service provider means they have a high pass rate. Kama is not able to complete the qualification. She continues to look after her young relatives, but no longer receives income for this.

The investment in supporting educators to complete the Level 4 qualification means that over time, the service provider is able to move to the quality rate. The quality of education at this service improves. Parents continue to pay no fees. Educators continue to earn $3 per hour per child. The higher quality rate means that the service provider is able to buy higher quality equipment for children and to pay herself a higher salary.