Crown Breaches, Neoliberal Reforms, and Radical Pedagogy

Mere Skerrett

Abstract: This chapter overviews bilingual/immersion education, Crown breaches and offers a radical pedagogy through Maori immersion early childhood care and education (ECCE). It asserts that in order for the Maori language to be a working living language in communities across Aotearoa then it needs to be fully incorporated into the education system. It presents an extended analysis of recent and relevant Waitangi Tribunal Reports demonstrating how the Crown and its administration (the Ministry of Education) has reneged on its fiduciary responsibilities and duties under the Treaty of Waitangi through its policies and procedures. This has led to a weakened Maori immersion ECCE infrastructure and decreasing options for Maori parents and children. It is an imperative that the Maori language supports in ECCE are strengthened.

Ritchie J., and M. Skerrett. Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. doi: 10.1057/9781137375797.0007.

Ko te reo te Mauri o mana Maori

(Na Sir James Henare, Waitangi Tribunal, 1985)

The language is the core of our Maori culture and mana. The language is the life force of the mana Maori


This chapter provides a deeper analysis of the Waitangi Tribunal Reports of 2010 and 2012 with regard to the Treaty breaches in education. The critique is largely concerned with the parent-led/teacher-led divide that was created with Pathways to the Future (Ministry of Education, 2002). It is asserted that the injustices that had been hardwired into the New Zealand education system through the colonial arrangements are ongoing. However, the findings of the Tribunal are of such magnitude that they cannot be ignored. The Waitangi Tribunal (2012) raised issues of funding inequities, enrollment drop offs, an irregular regulatory framework, and the overall deleterious effects on Maori bilingual/immersion education. It is reasserted in this chapter that te reo Maori needs to be fully incorporated into the education system. That is, it needs to be a compulsory part of the curriculum in exactly the same way that English is. After all, it is an official language. This has profound implications for initial teacher education (ITE) in this country. The nature of Maori language proficiency that ITE providers expect of graduating teachers is affected by a very wide range of socio-political, historical, and linguistic factors, and influenced by the policy environment. However, the policy environment lags behind the bilingual immersion field. In line with the Ka Hikitia strategy, ITE needs to step up to meet the development needs of a full education system in a bilingual/bicultural context. This requires consistent and large resources focused on it and to Maori language advancement in ITE. Only then will the system produce sufficient number of graduating teachers with the level/s and range/s of Maori language proficiency needed for full, high-quality teaching of the curriculum in bilingual/immersion early years education and beyond. Following on from a rendering of the Treaty breaches, a pedagogy of vigilance is imperative to counter the reach of the neoliberal agenda in education. This will assist with resisting the coercion of teachers into compliance regimes that are harmful to teaching and learning, damaging to teacher/ learner relationships, and ultimately dismantle democratic ideals.

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