Physical Education (PE) as a pathway to empowerment of young people in Rarotonga, Cook Islands : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Massey University
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The Cook Islands secondary school’s curriculum Oraanga e te Tupuanga Meitaki | The Health and Well-being Curriculum (OTM | HWC) derives from the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). While a western education system is based on the concept of building human capital, which conflicts with Pacific Indigenous education values, The OTM | HWC has been adapted to include Cook Islands values and philosophies. Despite a well-intentioned curriculum, the implementation may face additional challenges, with resourcing and teacher recruitment. The design and delivery of the OTM | HWC has the potential to educate the whole person, but students experiences may differ from intended outcomes. With this in mind, the aim of this research is to understand the potential that a culturally relevant Physical Education (PE) curriculum has to empower young people. This research therefore asks: 1) How has the OTM | HWC been adapted and implemented in Rarotonga, Cook Islands? 2) How is culture utilised within the curriculum and how did this play out in schools? 3) What challenges might be present with respect to the design and delivery of PE programmes? As this thesis is grounded in Development Studies and draws from theories of Sport for Development and PE for Development, of particular interest is understanding from a gendered perspective how PE can facilitate empowerment in Rarotonga. This research is a qualitative case study. Fieldwork was undertaken in two secondary schools in Rarotonga, both of which follow an NZ model of education in the senior school, with students gaining the NZ qualification the National Certificate in Education Achievement (NCEA). Methods of data collection consisted of classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, informal conversations, focus groups and a fieldwork journal. In total 25 participants were interviewed. Through the application of a culturally relevant empowerment framework, which was the theoretical lens by which the findings were deliberated, this research contributes to new ways of understanding the experiences of young men and women within the PE classroom. The research found that several challenges exist including the recruitment of qualified teachers, difficulties with facilities and efforts needed to encourage students who were reluctant to participate. This research shows that social connections with friends and classmates were crucial in the enjoyment of physical activity. This is closely linked with tu akangateitei (respect), which students believed should be shown to the teacher and others when participating. Additionally, self-efficacy was a large contributing factor to participation and enjoyment, with girls often perceiving they lacked in ability. A prevailing hegemonic masculinity influenced the behaviours of boys in the classroom, with some sports having the potential to threaten culturally defined masculinities. For empowerment to be culturally relevant within the PE classroom in Rarotonga, focusing on inclusion and support within activities that do not always focus on physical capability is essential. The inclusion of vaka and other cultural games in the curriculum is fundamental to ensuring local values are maintained and perpetuated.
Physical education for youth, Curricula, Study and teaching, Social aspects, Cook Islands, Rarotonga