Talei Alani Smith

Masters in Education

A great-grandfather killed by a swordfish. Grandparents who met and married in a leper colony: it’s the real life of Talei Alani Smith.

An ancestry that is Fijian, Chinese, Kiribati, Australian and Scottish has given her a unique insight into the gap between how people from different cultures are taught, and how they learn.

Talei has made the most of her hugely diverse cultural background to start making a difference, challenging the New Zealand education system, and its relevance to the Pacific Island children and teenagers within it.

After qualifying with an honours degree in English, Talei completed a graduate diploma in secondary school teaching at Massey’s School of Education. She then went on to teach for seven years, firstly in Palmerston North and Wellington then in London.

It’s her diverse background that inspired her Masters degree at Massey University’s School of Educational Studies: finding better ways of bolstering success for Pacific learners in New Zealand.

As she progressed she realised that no one had investigated how someone ‘learns’ to identify themselves as ‘Pacific’, and how that affects the way they learn in a Western context. So she did.

Today Talei is a Review Officer for the New Zealand Education Review Office (ERO) and is working on the next step of her research – looking at each aspect of cultural identity (sense of time, where they live) and how that impacts on how people learn.

Educating children has a huge impact on our country, on how innovative, creative and successful we end up being as a nation.

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