There’s a new book I’ve only just started reading, but which I’ve already taken a shine to – Kia Tangi Te Tītī – Permission to Speak. It explores, as the NZCER blurb explains, “what constitutes successful schooling for Māori students in the 21st century.”
NZCER explains: “Editor Paul Whitinui has drawn together academic contributions from diverse fields of mätauranga (education), mätauranga hinengaro (psychology), whakaako hauora (health), akoranga takakau-ā-ora (sport and leisure) and others. The book aims to provide a critical, reflective and forward-thinking view of how schooling for Māori students can be improved. The writers canvas topics such as the importance of te reo, Māori pedagogies, culturally relevant assessment, education strategies to develop Māori scientists and creating a culture of care. Underpinning it all is a powerful call for recognition of Māori as culturally connected learners.”
Introducing Māori Education:
The first paragraphs of the Foreword are worth repeating here, because they sum up nicely the background to current education situation for Māori. Dr Turoa Royal writes:
“The changing nature of schooling for Māori, the unacceptable level of Māori underachievement, as well as the place of Māori language and culture in the curriculum have always been of major concern to Māori. In 1814, the key aim of early missionary schools was not only to introduce Māori to Christianity but to also immerse Māori in biblical, schooling and literacy forms of education through assimilation. This process, however, also led to the eventual outlawing of the use of Māori language in schools for over a century. …Māori language and culture continues to struggle for the recognition and credence it rightly deserves.
In the 1970s, the Māori response to the schooling crisis and, in particular, the demise of te reo Māori, was met by a unified, determined and dynamic call not only to legitimise the use and visibility of Māori [-p.2] language, but also to enhance the provision of schooling and education in ways that would benefit iwi, hapū, whānau, marae and the community collectively. As a further consequence, and paralleled by an unrelenting social pressure on the government to recognise Māori language as its official language, the development of te kōhanga reo in the early 1980s subsequently led to Māori language being eventually mandated as an official language in 1987. Kura kaupapa, wharekura and wānanga soon followed, signalling wider optimisim that Māori students, and indeed the language, are perhaps now in ‘good hands’. Despite the overwhelming support for these kinds of transformational schooling initiatives, on average about half of Māori boys (and approximately 42 percent of Māori girls) leave secondary schools without even passing Level I of the New Zealand Certificate of Educational Achievement (Ministry of Education, 2006). It is clear from this statistic alone that there are enormous challenges to overcome and, in many ways, it cannot always be assumed that it is the victim’s fault. Furthermore, it is somewhat surprising that, as taxpayers, Māori parents have not yet become conscious that the current education system continues to ‘fail’ many Māori students and that the ongoing levels of underachievement of Māori students is unacceptable and needs to change.” (pp.1-2)
Royal goes on to ask: “…do we as educators do enough to help Māori parents understand the value of their involvement with their children’s education? In particular, do we as educators provide practical ways for Māori parents to become more involved in ways that develop the confidence needed for children to become determined and focused learners? As a parent, I certainly made sure they had a place to do their homework and that they knew of my aspirations for them to pursue a tertiary education programme.” (p.3)
“While it is important that schools should develop a culture of care, it is just as important to employ culturally responsive teaching pedagogies that are likely to enhance Māori student achievement, engagement and success. The teaching process for Māori students is usually a cross-cultural encounter. A culture of care also extends towards ensuring that all students and staff are safe.”
Ref: Turoa Royal, Foreword, pp.1-6 in Ed. Paul Whitinui (2011) Kia Tangi Te Tītī – Permission to Speak: Successful schooling for Māori students in the 21st century issues, challenges and alternatives. NZCER Press: Wellington
Whose responsibility is it?
Who then should take responsibility for the education success of Māori? It is clear that the government has a lot to answer for with regards to the failures (and change is happening), but….
This is a conversation that keeps coming up – and was touched on again the other night on Campbell Live when they showcased a couple who wants government funded education for their child, but don’t want the government to have any say in what that education should look like. (I think their anti-reo Māori position was strange and their argument poorly informed – they need to research the advantages of bilingualism to young children’s brain development and consider whether or not we are doing enough for young Kiwis when we have a resource like te reo Māori). That said, without people like that expressing their opinion, how would the discussion go public?!
Ka tangi te titi, ka tangi te kākā
u tangi hoki ahau
(let the bellbird sing, let the kaka sing,
let everyone sing – meaning everyone has a right to be heard)
(and I need to find the macrons on this computer…)
In his preface to the afore-mentioned book, Kia Tangi Te Tītī – Permission to Speak, Paul Whitinui writes that: “Apryll Parata in Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success: Māori Education Strategy stated that ‘legitimising and recognising the distinct learning conditions, whereby Māori students are in control of their learning, requires educators to ensure that their practice is built on strong, respectful, culturally informed and responsive relationships’ (p.9). This poses a critical question: Does the responsibility fall solely on the teachers who spend the most time engaging with Māori students in the classroom? Or is it that schools need to find better ways of developing learning environments that are more inclusive of Māori students’ abilities, talents, experiences and intellectual prowess in ways that engage them as culturally connected human beings? This book intends to provide a number of practical and relevant examples of what constitutes Māori students as culturally connected human beings and, more importantly, how we as educators engage with culture, as a preferred teaching and learning practice.” (p.8)
Ref: Paul Whitinui, Preface, pp.7-10 in Ed. Paul Whitinui (2011) Kia Tangi Te Tītī – Permission to Speak: Successful schooling for Māori students in the 21st century issues, challenges and alternatives. NZCER Press: Wellington