Preserving Culture, Empowering Futures


Kula Kaiapuni dialogue calls for Federal Government funding in Native Hawaiian education

In the wake of unprecedented challenges faced by Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities, the Native Hawaiian Education Council (NHEC) has presented priority recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education in its 2023 annual report, focusing on crucial aspects of education for Native Hawaiian learners in kula kaiapuni communities. These recommendations aim to address the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, historical contexts, and recent catastrophes, offering a pathway to strengthen Native Hawaiian education.

Prioritizing Hawaiian Language-Medium Instruction and Culture-Based Education Programs

The first and foremost recommendation underscores the urgency of prioritizing Hawaiian language-medium instruction and culture-based education programs. With the heightened vulnerability of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities to emerging COVID variants in 2023, stabilizing a learning continuum and preserving cultural practices becomes paramount. The devastating impact of the Aug. 8, 2023, Maui wildfires further highlights the need for targeted efforts to bridge learning gaps and address trauma-informed approaches to student wellbeing.

Recognizing the historical context of population decimation and cultural loss due to American imperialism, the NHEC emphasizes the importance of addressing mistrust and vaccination hesitancy among NHPIs. Culture-based programs, such as the Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area, serve as models for integrating cultural practices with public health initiatives, offering a holistic approach to navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Strengthening Connection to ʻĀina, Culture, and Language

Native Hawaiians’ deep ties to ʻāina, culture, and language have a profound impact on their social and cultural wellbeing. The pandemic has underscored the significance of these connections, as reflected in community consultations. Participants stressed the need for cultural programming, values, learning ʻōlelo Hawai‘i and ʻāina work for success, signaling a shift in perspective brought about by the pandemic.

Exploring Community-Driven Definitions of Student Achievement

The examination of the achievement gap reveals the influence of colonialism and the inadequacy of English-based standardized tests for assessing the capabilities of Native Hawaiian learners. The NHEC recommends a shift from Western achievement gap measurement and standards to community-driven definitions of student achievement. Emphasis is placed on prioritizing kula-specific standards aligned with the unique context, curriculum, and approach of Native Hawaiian education. Community feedback highlights the need for clarity regarding assessment measures and standards, particularly in closing achievement gaps.

Focusing on Implementation and Mastery of Skills

To maximize the impact of Native Hawaiian education, the NHEC advocates prioritizing the initial stages of Hawaiian language-medium instruction and culture-based education. Honing proficiency in these areas before considering broader outcomes ensures a strong foundation for achieving broader educational objectives. This approach aligns with community feedback, emphasizing the importance of effective implementation and mastery of skills.

In conclusion, the priority recommendations presented by the Native Hawaiian Education Council provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the unique challenges faced by Native Hawaiian learners. By focusing on language, culture, community-driven definitions of achievement, and skill mastery, these recommendations pave the way for a resilient and culturally responsive education system that empowers Native Hawaiian students to thrive in the face of adversity.

NHEC’s annual report will be made digitally available via our website at in Spring 2024.