Irene Paleai-Foroti taught secondary teaching in Samoa before moving to New Zealand in 2002.
She studied a Bachelor of Education and went on to complete her Master of Education at the University of Auckland, graduating in 2012.
Irene is now completing her Doctor of Philosophy, as an extension of her Master's thesis, looking at the concept of play in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
“I’m exploring the Samoan people’s view of play, because I believe the concept of play in ECE is very important.
“From a Samoan perspective, play isn’t viewed as that important. They will say it’s a waste of time and that directive learning is more important.
"As part of my research, I’m looking at the translation of the word 'play' in Samoan (ta’alo) and how that factors into the understanding of what play in ECE entails.
“From my research, I would like our Samoan parents to understand the importance of play in ECE in an Aotearoa New Zealand context, and overcome the barriers of perhaps some misunderstanding in translation.”
Irene says a child's early education very important, especially for their identity.
“It’s a solid foundation for our children and there are a lot of factors that influence their learning. It’s where they begin to learn about themselves and their own identity and if they are solid in their own cultural identity, it will help them to accept others as they grow and learn.”
Irene believes her research empowers her people.
“My research is about 'My People’s Knowledge'. It’s about giving back to our people and our knowledge base.”
As one of the lecturers on AUT’s Pasifika Early Childhood Teaching since 2012, Irene Paleai-Foroti feels blessed to be in a position where she is able to enrich others.
“This programme is unique to AUT and it’s very enriching. Our students and our lecturers share our cultures and perspectives, and through this we are enriching each other.
Irene says working on this programme has helped her to pass on core Pacific beliefs and values that she has learned from her own experience.
“Our curriculum encompasses our own experiences and we pass these on to our students. It feels like giving back, especially in the environment of AUT’s South campus.”