Creating an equal opportunity to learn

Issue: Volume 102, Number 6

Posted: 11 May 2023
Reference #: 1HA_np

Kōkirihia – a Plan for Action for removing streaming from our schools by 2030 was launched in Christchurch in March by the Māori Futures Collective.

Jo McLean, Te Rūnanga o Waihao representative to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Jo McLean, Te Rūnanga o Waihao representative to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The education system is not a static entity, and Kōkirihia is a great example of the whole of the education sector working together to make a change.

Kōkirihia is about giving students more choice in their future by allowing them to pursue their interests and passions, providing them with equal opportunities to succeed.

Speaking at the launch, researcher and author Dr Hana O’Regan said, “Our education system has been shaped by people for people and we have the power to make a much-needed change.

“When students are not divided into separate classes based on their abilities, they have an equal opportunity to succeed and access the same resources and opportunities.”

Research has shown that streaming disproportionately affects students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and can perpetuate existing inequalities.

“Streaming has hugely damaging impacts on Māori and Pasifika rangatahi but it’s something we can change, and what’s fantastic is that we know the solution,” said Hana.

Fostering inclusive learning

Eruera Tarena from Tokona Te Raki, Māori Future Makers, said, “It was important to not be fearful of making changes to the education system. Removing streaming from schools can give students more choice in their future by allowing them to pursue their interests and passions.”

Eruera said we can provide environments that encourage all students to reach their full potential.

 Meng Foon.

Meng Foon.

“It is up to all of us to work together to create a better future for our students, and to help them to discover their strengths and interests, and to explore different career paths.”

While the implementation of this change may be challenging, the benefits are clear.

Andy Jackson, hautū | deputy secretary Te Puna Kaupapahere | Policy at the Ministry of Education said alternative approaches to streaming benefit all learners and foster safe and inclusive learning environments.

“It’s reassuring that these approaches are being used in a growing number of New Zealand schools to achieve better outcomes for learners.”

Removing streaming can help to promote diversity and inclusion in our schools.

Meng Foon, race relations commissioner of New Zealand, said, “By removing streaming from our schools and prioritising the needs and interests of students we can give children a better choice in their future.”

Summing up the feeling at the Kōkirihia launch, Meng Foon said, “It is because of this team’s passion and work we now have a beautiful document to guide us.”

Avonside Girls’ High School – Canterbury

More and more schools are moving away from streaming and Avonside Girls’ High School principal Catherine Law says, “Streaming creates a number of negative consequences, including limiting opportunities for students to learn and grow.

“By removing streaming, we can create a more equitable and empowering learning environment that provides students with greater opportunities to learn and develop.”

When Catherine was deputy principal at Hasting Girls’ High School, they removed streaming completely from the school and she says, “This created a more equitable learning environment that provided all students with the same opportunities to learn and succeed.”

Avonside Girls’ High School head student Manaaki Waretini-Beaumont says, “Removing streaming can help promote a passion of lifelong learning.”

Now a Year 13 student, when she started high school there were tests to see what classes they would be in, and “it didn’t matter what they called the groups we all knew who were in the higher or lower streamed classes.”

This was not the case for her sister who has started this year with no tests; rather her core subjects were based on passion and interests; and teachers have high expectations.

Manaaki says, “By creating an environment where all students are encouraged to learn and grow, students can develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their personal and professional lives.”

Avonside Girls' High School principal Catherine Law with one of the school's head students, Manaaki.

Avonside Girls' High School principal Catherine Law with one of the school's head students, Manaaki.

The design team

In early 2021, representatives from the Ministry of Education and the Mātauranga Iwi Leaders Group came to Tokona te Raki with tono – to bring together education leaders across the sector and design the action plan to drive the desired outcome – ending streaming in Aotearoa.

The design team included representatives from Mātauranga Iwi Leaders Group, rangatahi, secondary school principals, Ministry of Education, NZEI Te Riu Roa, CORE Education Tātai Aho Rau, Canterbury University, the University of Auckland, PPTA Te Wehengarua, The Professional Learning Association New Zealand, NZQA, and ERO.

The design team came together for a common purpose – to improve the futures of rangatahi. At the launch they talked about their passion and desire to see equal opportunities and outcomes for all students.

The plan is about setting out the steps needed to end streaming in Aotearoa by 2030. It makes the case for the change, and Minister Kelvin Davis said, “Kōkirihia brings this vision to life.”

The design group put those directly impacted by streaming, our rangatahi, at the front of this initiative and they told us two things: they want culturally responsive teachers and an end to the practice of streaming.

The report shows the strength of their voice and that they were heard.

Addressing bias and stereotyping

On 28 March, champions of destreaming Professor Christine Rubie-Davies and Dr Hana O’Regan led a free webinar – Tūhuratia te Iho Pūmanawa | Addressing bias and stereotyping in teaching practice.

The webinar supported primary and secondary educators to understand more about what it takes to end streaming in their settings, and offered a gateway to:

  • uncovering the potential of every ākonga without bias or prejudice
  • identifying behaviours of teachers with high expectations
  • effective practices for mixed-ability teaching.
Dr Hana O’Regan.

Dr Hana O’Regan.

Hana began the kōrero by posing three key questions:

What do we know about the basis upon which the New Zealand education system was formed?

What were the intentions that sat behind the system, its policies and resulting practices?

Was equity a consideration?

She went on to explore how the education system was set up in a way that deliberately sought to create inequities of access and opportunities, and relays how streaming was a tool used to achieve this.

“When we’re looking at what was created, we need to think about the purpose of it. The reflection is that education’s purpose was economic growth, and individual advancement. It was very individualistic,” says Hana.

“In contrast, where we’re wanting to move to, is where the purpose isn’t around economic growth or individual advancement, but centrally locating the learner in the context of the environment and the planet, social connection, and us thriving alongside our environment.”

Christine emphasises how the opportunity to learn is the crux of the debate, saying, “In Aotearoa, when students arrive at school at five, they are very quickly put into an ability group in reading, maths, written language, and sometimes other subjects as well.

“Interestingly, the ability group that students end up in in primary school, will predict the stream they are at in secondary school. At secondary school, this plays a large part in the future direction of students once they leave school.”

Watch the full webinar online at Tātai Aho Rau Core Education(external link) 


Kōkirihia – the plan to end streaming in our schools. Read more at link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:05 am, 11 May 2023

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts