Fata ho poto: Tongan science learners and engagement, enjoyment and success in secondary school and university settings


  • Sonia Fonua University of Auckland
  • Fire U. F. A. T. M. I. Fonua
  • Reverend Pitasoni T. Fonua
  • Lavinia T. Fonua




Moana/Pacific, Tonga, science, engagement, enjoyment, success, poto


Engagement and success are prominent in education discussions, research and policy in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally. Yet, little is known about how successful Tongan science learners define engagement, enjoyment or success, and which teaching and learning experiences have enhanced or detracted from their engagement, enjoyment and success during their studies. This article shares the stories of 26 successful Tongan science learners who participated in talanoa (open discussion without an agenda) about their engagement, enjoyment and success in secondary and university science education in Aotearoa, and, for some, their schooling in Tonga. The Manulua framework (Fonua, 2021) informed how their stories were gathered, analysed and woven together. The article presents the Fata ho poto model to demonstrate how engagement, enjoyment and success are considered by successful Tongan science learners. This model is useful for those increasing Tongan and Moana/Pacific learning achievement. It offers important insights related to the role of education policy and practice in shaping notions of engagement, enjoyment and success among Tongan and Moana/Pacific learners.


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Author Biographies

Sonia Fonua, University of Auckland

Sonia M. Fonua is married to Fire Fonua and is Pāpālangi (of European ancestry), born and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is a Professional Teacher Fellow in the School of Environment, University of Auckland, with over 20 years’ experience teaching science in higher education, in equity focused spaces. Her research interests include Indigenous (science) knowledges, art and creative practice in science education, Tongan koloa (Tongan barkcloth and woven materials, cultural treasures), equity in education and relational teaching practices.

Fire U. F. A. T. M. I. Fonua

Fire Fonua is the son of Reverend Pitasoni Taelata He Vaha Ilolahia Fonua and Lavinia Talakihesina Ulakai Fonua. He was born in Fasi, Tongatapu, and migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 1970s as a small child.

Reverend Pitasoni T. Fonua

Reverend Pitasoni Taelata He Vaha Ilolahia Fonua is the son of Sione Feitotau Folaha and Amelia Sini Holani Fonua. He was born in Fasi, Tongatapu, and migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 1970s. He was heavily involved in the faikava kalapu (kava clubs).

Lavinia T. Fonua

Lavinia Talakihesina Ulakai Fonua is the daughter of Ulakai Poteta and Kalisi. She was born in Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu, and migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 1970s.


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How to Cite

Fonua, S., Fonua, F. U. F. A. T. M. I., Fonua, R. P. T., & Fonua , L. T. (2022). Fata ho poto: Tongan science learners and engagement, enjoyment and success in secondary school and university settings. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(2). https://doi.org/10.55146/ajie.v51i2.44




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