Red and Starry Eyed | Issue 6

On Maori Culture in Education

At the beginning of the 20th century, many New Zealanders hoped Maori would die out. Their numbers were declining quickly, but a hundred years later we claim to be Aotearoa – a multicultural, bilingual society.

We may be multicultural, but our society has very little Maori left in it. And our government’s current quest for standardisation in education is threatening Te Reo even more.

The Crown is currently in court, accused of limiting the funding to Kohanga reo and thus deteriorating their quality. These centres have given kids a 100% Maori preschool education for more than 30 years and there is no need to cut the services. They are run by the community and studies suggest that kids immersed in these schools are twice as likely to attend university.

The Kohanga Reo Trust Board wants the government to separate the preschools from the Ministry of Education, and to put funding at a par with other preschool institutions. It is the government’s duty to do this if we want to continue calling New Zealand a bilingual society. Moreover, Te Reo should be compulsory education for primary and secondary schools. Kids should be able to leave school knowing more than one to 10 and a couple of mispronounced phrases. Maori is an active part of our identity and performing the haka will not suffice. Unless someone, Maori or Pakeha, can go to the supermarket asking for bread and butter in Te Reo, we are at risk of losing our culture and history. In ten years time, we will be no different from an English county, or an Australian province.

The Crown says it needs to standardise education so that it can ensure we all come out of high school as robots without critical capacity. Standardisation is a one-size-fits-all straightjacket. It culls creativity and culture to make an “average individual”. There is nothing wrong with community-run schools, especially if they are more successful than your average kindy. The trust says the Crown is not taking into account the “cultural needs of Maori”. Red and Starry Eyed thinks the Crown has never taken into account the needs of Maori. They have been robbed across the centuries, but we still have time to recover an important slice of Kiwi culture.

Maori in preschool is a good start if we want to keep an identity that is much more than rugby.

- Red and Starry Eyed
This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2012.
Posted 7:07pm Sunday 1st April 2012 by Red and Starry Eyed.