SPANZ Day 2: Keynote address - Dr Damon Salesa: Sailing after the storm. Education in the wake of COVID-19.


Toeolesulusulu Damon Ieremia Salesa is the first Pacific vice chancellor
at a New Zealand university, at Auckland University of Technology.

What New Zealand needs to have learned from COVID-19. 

What we need to be better at. 

An unequal storm

  • COVID amplified inequalities in housing, income and wealth
  • Had a particular effect on Auckland families on Māori and Pasifika
  • The impact will endure after COVID is normalised, particularly in education
  • Education as a nexus of the challenge: a place where exisiting inequalities can be concretised or addressed
  • But education was already one of the most unequal and racialised dimensions of NZ life
  • We already had a schooling system that furthers the disadvantaged poor and brown students
Inclusivity and Universities
  • NZ universities have been places were privilege has been credentialised and further advantaged
  • A large proportion of quality, lifelong and well paid jobs are accessed through a university education
  • Universities are built on a traditional view id excellence and quality that is exclusive: where equity has come after not built in
  • There is unequal and uneven preparation and access - Māori, Pasifika and those from low socio-economic background disproportionately affected.
  • University curriculum, pedagogy and assessment functions separately from schools - even at odds in some ways
  • Some COVID efforts (including LSC) exacerbated the gap betweens schools and universities 

AUT's COVID Navigation
  • COVID amplified the inequalities
  • AUT history of working with student educational experience was most precarious
  • We reprioritised
  • We partnered
  • University as Year 14
  • Equipped students digitally
  • We used data evidence and evaluation
  • We led with culturally responsive relationships
  • We and our students felt the burden and suffered. We have further to go, and some of the hardest yards to come. 
  • Student success plan: Ki uta ki tai

Time 4 Greatness
  • Let's get on the same page so we can cross the same stage. 
  • 2020 - 251 Year 13 students visited the campus. 
  • Partnered with LearnCoach 1059 got premium accounts and and a Discord channel.
  • Weekly timetable - academic drop in sessions, academic workshops, interest groups, engagement.
  • UP - Uniprep programme working in whānau groups. 296 attended an academic literacy course over Summer. 97.6% pass rate.
  • An effective but an expensive way to deliver education.
Ki Uta Ki Tai
  • Recognise the way we are the problem: where we have made it difficult, unequal, have introduced barriers and challenges to a successful and empowering education.
  • Delivering culturally capable teaching: tikanga, reo, aganu'u Samoa...; but also creating a place to belong, be connected, be empowered: 
  • Prioritise equity measures of quality and success: almost all our students, can reach their academic potential under the right conditions, and the absence of success is evidence that conditions are not right.


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