Ka Hikitia Maori education strategies and Tau Mai Te Reo

The second (phase two) iteration of the Ka Hikitia strategy is Ka Hikitia—Accelerating Success 2013-2017 (Ministry of Education, 2013a), a five-year strategy that covers early learning, and the primary, secondary, and tertiary education sectors. It asserts that it is the education system that needs to step up to ensure Maori students enjoy and achieve educational success, as Maori (p. 5). It acknowledges that immediate, rapid, and sustained change is needed. A central focus is the knowledge that “students do much better when education reflects their identity, language and culture” (p. 6). There are two underpinning critical factors for Maori to excel and reach their full potential. The first is quality provision and pedagogical leadership, supported by effective governance; the second is iwi (Maori) community (and business) engagement.

There are five guiding principles for the whole of the education sector:

  • 1 The Treaty of Waitangi-Ka Hikitia—Accelerating Success 2013-2017 gives expression to how the Treaty principles, particularly those of partnership (creating responsibilities analogous to fiduciary duties) between Maori and the Crown, are applied in education. Ensuring Maori children and young people enjoy and achieve education success as Maori is a joint responsibility of the Crown and iwi Maori (Maori communities) to lift the performance of the education system.
  • 2 Maori potential approach—The Strategy continues with the Maori potential approach that every Maori child can make a valuable social, cultural, and economic contribution to the well-being of their whanau, their community, and New Zealand as a whole, and achieve.
  • 3 Ako—a two-way teaching and learning process—The notion of ako (teaching and learning) is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and the inseparability of student and whanau; educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective.
  • 4 Identity, language and culture count—Children and young people achieve when their identity, language, and culture are valued and included in teaching and learning in ways that support them.
  • 5 Productive partnerships—The Strategy promotes a team effort. It requires everyone who plays a role in education to take action and work together. Productive partnerships are based on mutual respect, understanding, and shared aspirations, and are productive where there is an ongoing exchange of knowledge and information.

There are five focus areas: Maori language in education, early learning, primary and secondary education, tertiary education, and organizational success. For the purposes of this chapter I will be critiquing the first two. The first focus—Maori language in education—has as an outcome that all Maori students have access to high-quality Maori language education (p. 27). The Strategy states, “Maori language in education is critical for the Crown to meet its Treaty obligations to strengthen and protect the Maori language” (p. 28) and that “Effective Maori language educators have a high level of Maori language proficiency and are experts in second language acquisition” (p. 29). It suggests that iwi (Maori people/tribes) play vital roles in strengthening Maori language in education provision by providing supports, helping with Maori language in education teacher recruitment, providing professional development and iwi-specific curriculum, and ensuring Maori language is supported in the homes and marae. This focus area will be difficult to achieve in the absence of any plan as to how iwi Maori are supposed to provide these supports and involve themselves in such things as teacher recruitment, professional development, and curriculum development, especially when iwi Maori are so diverse, demographically thinned out, and many are living in colonized spaces. There is the added underlying assumption that iwi Maori (Maori people/tribes) have the infrastructure to be able to provide all these supports. Take, for example, my Ngai Tahu iwi, which has moved into a post Treaty-settlement realm: it has one person employed by the Tribe to manage educational issues across most of the South Island. Whilst the strategy is aspirational, the provision of supports to meet this focus area is just not going to happen any time soon, without a realistic implementation plan and commitment of resource.

The second focus—early learning—states, “All Maori children participate in high quality early learning” (p. 31), and that “Strong early learning experiences provide critical foundations for success in later education” (p. 32). There is no reference under this focus area (pp. 31-32) to Maori language education in early learning. It does not come in until the two critical factors (quality and iwi engagement) are applied and even then the statements are somewhat vague. In terms of the quality provision critical factor it states, “Te Whariki, the early childhood education curriculum, is an expression of biculturalism and provides a strong basis for teachers and leaders to promote aspects of Maori language and culture in early learning environments. Te Whariki must be embedded within all services.” (p. 33). However, it does not make the link between the first focus area that “all Maori students have access to high quality Maori language education” (p. 27) and the second focus area that “All Maori children participate in high quality early learning” (p. 31). A strategy designed to actually make a difference for all learners should start by blending the first two foci and state outright that “All learners have access to, and participate in, high quality Maori language early learning.” That is, Maori language should be a part of the core curriculum in early years’ education and beyond, for all learners. This has implications for all who want to be teachers in our country, and for initial teacher education. It gives expression to the idea below that it is the Maori language that is what defines us as a unique “kiwi” culture and identity.

Added to that, Tau Mai Te Reo: The Maori Language in Education Strategy 2013-2017Summary (Ministry of Education, 2013b) (the language strategy that falls out of Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success 2013-2017) states the Ministry of Education and its agencies, have obligations, as Crown agencies, to “actively protect Maori language as a taonga guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi” (p. 1), and that “Maori language in education is a defining feature of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s education. The education system needs to create Maori language opportunities for all learners. For Maori language to flourish the language needs to be supported both within the education system and in communities” (p. 3); yet both strategies (Ka Hikitia and Tau Mai Te Reo) do not address the crux of the matter: the need to position the Maori language at the center of the curriculum alongside the English language across the whole education sector. Only 7.08 percent of the total Government expenditure on education is spent on Maori language in education (Ministry of Education, 2013b). One can extrapolate that it is a little over 92 percent that is spent on English language in education, regardless of whether it is literacy, numeracy, or ICT; if it is through the English medium then it is expenditure on the English language in education. To make a difference for all learners, Maori language must be officially mandated in the curriculum (as it is in law) alongside English (The Royal Society of New Zealand, 2013; Waite, 1992). Tau Mai Te Reo states, under Early Learning, that “By 2017 85 percent of ECE services reviewed by ERO will be working to some extent or to a high extent in partnership with Maori whanau” (p. 44, my emphasis added), but there is no visionary statement or expectation about the Maori language, knowledge, or worldviews.

Maori parents and grandparents were instrumental in establishing the Kohanga Reo movement in the early 1980s, and subsequently its primary (elementary) school and secondary (high school) extensions. That is acknowledged in the current Ministry of Education strategies. But the sluggish response by the Crown to the Maori language educational needs of whanau Maori (Maori families) has seen the Waitangi Tribunal (2012) finding the Crown and its Ministry of Education in breach of its Treaty obligations (documented in detail in Chapter 3). The Maori medium sector in the early years has plummeted and is now in a state of steady decline. This has impacted on the whole stream of Maori-medium education. At this moment, the newly released Maori education strategy is talking about lengthening its stride and stepping up and simultaneously making demands on iwi Maori (Maori people/tribes), with no real plan or commitment of resource. Apart from the fact that the Crown has been ostensibly stepping up for the last 50 years, it appears to me to be a case of the Crown (and its administration) taking a giant step back. So my prediction for TKR, without radical systemic change and intelligent policy, is continued linguafaction (being the conditions within which language demise occurs) and a prolonged but perhaps inevitable language death. There are some basic fundamental steps that could be taken to provide some strong supports for the regeneration of the Maori language as a vernacular, but the Crown is still dragging the chain.

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