Aotearoa-Asia connection prospering in classrooms

Issue: Volume 102, Number 9

Posted: 13 July 2023
Reference #: 1HAahv

Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent Iwi and all Aotearoa in a vibrant cultural festival in Japan – one of three schools chosen from across the world (outside of Japan). This is one of many ways that New Zealand-Asia connections are strengthening across the motu, with schools relishing opportunities to develop ‘world-ready’ rangatahi.

Ma te huruhuru te manu ka rere ai.

Adorned with feathers, the bird is able to fly.

Diwali performers visit Wellington’s Newtown School.

Diwali performers visit Wellington’s Newtown School.

In the small North Island town of Murupara, something big is brewing. Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tāwhiuau has been selected to represent Aotearoa New Zealand at the 2023 National Japan High School cultural festival in Kagoshima, Japan.

A group of 15 senior students accompanied by kaiako and whānau will represent the kura, Iwi and Aotearoa at the vibrant festival which is attended by up to 100,000 spectators. Only three schools outside of Japan are selected to participate.

The experience is made possible by the foresight and efforts of the kura to equip their students to thrive in Asia – the region that will be most consequential to New Zealand’s future prosperity, security and development, according to the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono.

The kura adopts an immersive trilingual model where students learn Māori, Mandarin and Japanese, including Ainu, an indigenous language of Japan.

From as early as 2009, the kura has been involved in reciprocal learning relationships with other indigenous communities across the globe.

Deputy principal Lianne Bird and kaiako carefully maintain a special relationship with the Ainu people of Ainu Moshir (Hokkaido, Japan) and Japanese schools via digital and other cultural exchanges. 

Equipping students for future opportunities

The students selected to represent Aotearoa will meet the Governor of Kagoshima Prefecture (similar to a district in New Zealand), located on the islands of Kyushu and Ryukyu and with a population of 1.5 million people. They will also get to participate in the official parade, perform at the festival and participate in student exchange events with other participating high schools.

Inngrid, who is 16 years old, will be representing the kura in Kagoshima and has been learning Asian languages for three years now.

“Learning languages, specifically Ainu and Japanese languages, has provided so many opportunities for us as Uri-descendants. It is so exciting to think that soon we will be in Kagoshima sharing our unique Ngāti Manawa culture with Japanese students and then heading to Nibutani-Hokkaido to reconnect with Ainu whānau,” she says.

In a bid to offer more options at NCEA level, the kura starting teaching Asian languages more than a decade ago.

They have since become a Confucius Class in the Bay of Plenty and are conducting annual indigenous youth cultural exchanges with the iwi taketake or indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu.

“The opportunities extended to our kura through these relationships in Asia are abundant. Our month-long visit to Japan will not only include the Kagoshima Festival but a week in Nibutani and Tomakamai with Ainu whānau, followed by six days on the Peace Boat Japan which is an opportunity for our uri to interact with youth from all over Japan.

“Kāre kē he parapainga i tua atu i te ako reo i Āhia hai huarahi whai i ngā tapuwae a tīpuna mā. We aspire to follow in our ancestors’ footsteps as global citizens,” says Lianne.

Making a head start on Asia learning

Educators in Aotearoa are increasingly seeing the need for students to know more about Asia, and they are not alone. In fact, research conducted by the Asia New Zealand Foundation shows that 79 percent of New Zealanders believe that developing political, social, and economic ties with Asia is important for New Zealand’s future and is the number one destination that young New Zealanders want to travel to and learn about (Perceptions of Asia 2022).

With educators more aware of the need for Asia-related learning, schools are finding ways to introduce Asia into their learning, and it’s a movement that is steadily gaining momentum.

One of the trailblazers is Oropi School which has developed an Asia awareness programme and maintains partnerships with schools in China, Korea and India digitally. Students at Oropi School also have the option to learn multiple languages, including Mandarin.

Oropi School principal Andrew King says, “We specify annual goals in relation to learning an Asian language and learning about an Asian culture. Fostering Asia awareness amongst our students is vital in preparing our children for their future world of work as adults.”

Over in Takaka, Golden Bay High School focuses on one Asian country each year, to help their students learn about different cultures and practices, and as part of teaching students about New Zealand’s own diversity.

The school’s principal, Linda Tame, is passionate about empowering rangatahi to have the skills and attitudes to thrive when they leave school. She says that one important aspect of being “world ready rangatahi” is being able to relate to and work with people from different backgrounds.

“As there are very few people of Asian ethnicity in our school’s community, our students have limited exposure to Asian cultures, values, language, geography and histories, despite how important Asia is to Aotearoa New Zealand,” Linda says.

In the last couple of years, the students have ‘explored’ Indonesia and Japan. This year, students are learning about India and the different aspects of Indian culture in New Zealand. Next year, the school will be focusing on South Korea.

Indigenous youth delegation from Japan meet with the uri at Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tāwhiuau.

Indigenous youth delegation from Japan meet with the uri at Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tāwhiuau.

Aligning to curriculum

Suzannah Jessep, the director of education at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, says if young New Zealanders do not have the confidence and skills to engage with the countries of Asia, they may miss out on the many opportunities the region has to offer. She adds that “Asia is the new centre of gravity”.

With the refreshed te ao tangata | social sciences learning area, a group of teachers from the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Education Champions programme saw an opportunity for the Foundation to provide a resource that helped teachers build students’ knowledge and understanding of Asia.

The resource, Making Connections: Aotearoa New Zealand and Asia(external link), provides opportunities for learners in Years 7 and 8 to explore connections between communities and culture in New Zealand and communities and cultures in Asia.

Using the te ao tangata | social sciences learning area, the resource guides learners through inquiries that span the history of Asian migration to Aotearoa and once here, how they settled and integrated and brought new skills and cultures with them.

Designed as easy-to-use inquiry cards in PDF formats, the resource links to the Understand, Know, Do framework and leads into discussions of te ao Māori concepts such as being tauiwi (non-Māori), manaakitanga (showing respect, generosity, and care), whanaungatanga (relationship, kinship and a sense of family connection) and kaitiakitanga (stewardship and guardianship).

Steve Trotter, a teacher at Rototuna Junior High School, who is also a Foundation Education Champion, trialled the resource with his class.

“The set of inquiry cards was thought-provoking and sparked some great conversations. I like that the resource allowed for a wide scope of learning. I would recommend it; it is easy to modify for class use. The photos are cool, and I like the incorporation of te reo Māori,” he says.

A gateway to Asia learning

Suzannah notes that social media and the popularity of Korean pop culture and Japanese manga is providing rangatahi with a taste of what’s cool in Asia. But the opportunities are so much more than this.

She says school remains an important source of student knowledge about Asia, but in a recent study of school leavers only half (49 percent) of students who said they knew something about an Asian country said they learned about it at school. The majority said more Asia learning was needed.

Adrienne Smith, teacher at Western Heights Primary School in Rotorua, who contributed to the Making Connections: Aotearoa New Zealand and Asia resource, says, “Asia holds both a world of opportunity and potential for our tamariki. I want to equip tamariki with the skills and confidence needed to one day forge their own way in this unique region.” 

Asia New Zealand Foundation

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia. Their education programme provides kaiako with the knowledge, resources and experiences to equip their students to thrive in Asia.

The Foundation’s Champions programme brings together leading educators from around Aotearoa to act as role models, ensuring knowledge and understanding of Asia is valued in schools and kura.

The Foundation would like to acknowledge the following educators for their input on the Making Connections: Aotearoa New Zealand and Asia resource: Adrienne Smith, Western Heights Primary; Andrew King, Oropi School; Corin Armstead, Coatesville School; Jane Bassett, Havelock North Intermediate School and Lynne Mossop, Greenpark School. 

Asia New Zealand Foundation supported calligraphy workshop.

Asia New Zealand Foundation supported calligraphy workshop.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:31 am, 13 July 2023

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