He reo ka tipu i ngā kura, growing te reo Māori in schools

Issue: Volume 102, Number 4

Posted: 30 March 2023
Reference #: 1HA_9C

He reo ka tipu i ngā kura is a research project designed to support English-medium primary schools to take strategic approaches to strengthen Māori language teaching and learning.

Forty Māori and non-Māori pou reo from 10 primary schools were interviewed about the teaching and learning of te reo Māori.

Forty Māori and non-Māori pou reo from 10 primary schools were interviewed about the teaching and learning of te reo Māori.

He reo ka tipu i ngā kura: Growing te reo Māori in English-medium primary schools by Nicola Bright and Esther Smaill is a project led by Te Wāhanga NZCER.

Nicola Bright is a kairangahau matua Māori and Esther Smaill is a kairangahau matua at Rangahau Mātauranga o Aotearoa – NZCER. Both are passionate about supporting reo Māori revitalisation in education through their research.

The report focuses on pou reo, the individuals or groups who actively support reo Māori teaching and learning in a school.

Twenty Māori and 20 non-Māori pou reo from 10 primary schools across three regions were interviewed for He reo ka tipu i ngā kura. Pou reo are individuals or groups who actively support te reo Māori teaching and learning in a school.

In the context of this study, pou reo included kaiako, teachers, kaiāwhina, tumuaki, principals, and whānau members. The research has a particular focus on how their efforts have benefited tamariki and whānau Māori. These pou reo had different backgrounds, whakapapa, and levels of knowledge about and proficiency in te reo Māori.

The team’s latest report explores the influence of identity on how Māori and non-Māori pou reo position themselves in their schools and examines the motivations for pou reo to teach and learn te reo Māori.

It shows that identity matters when it comes to the teaching and learning of te reo Māori and provides valuable insights into how Māori and non-Māori pou reo position themselves and enact their roles in relation to growing te reo Māori.

These insights can help schools better understand what drives and engages pou reo, and also how schools can support pou reo in fulfilling their roles.

Critical conversations

The report highlights the importance of pou reo having opportunities to engage in critical conversations about their identity, positioning, and motivation in relation to te reo Māori.

Creating space for pou reo to have these conversations supports the development of shared understanding and provides schools with a solid foundation for growing te reo Māori. The latest report includes a tool that has been designed to assist pou reo with having these critical conversations.

The pou reo interviewed described four types of practice that had had a positive impact on Māori language teaching and learning in their schools.

The four good practices shared in the report provide schools with a range of strategies and ideas that they can draw on to grow their reo Māori teaching and learning programmes.

Strategic planning

The first good practice is about strategically planning to grow te reo Māori in schools, which involves having a clear shared vision that includes whānau aspirations for te reo Māori.

Schools that had made the most progress with growing te reo Māori had comprehensive long-term reo Māori plans.

“Where our school was at the beginning, to how far it has come now in the demands of the whānau, wanting their tamariki in the bilingual unit ... Now we have 10 new bilingual classrooms. 10 out of [the] 21 classrooms [in the school],” says one kaiako Māori.

These schools were able to offer reo Māori teaching and learning at multiple levels to support a range of whānau aspirations for te reo Māori.

They also had embedded strategies and practices in place to support ongoing growth.

Involving whānau and communities

The second good practice is involving whānau and communities in Māori language planning and programmes. Pou reo who did this created opportunities for whānau to share their reo Māori aspirations. These aspirations were then incorporated into school planning.

“Last year, the Board of Trustees put on a night asking the community what they needed to see more in the school and just about everybody said more [reo] Māori,” says a kaiako Māori.

These pou reo welcomed Māori-speaking whānau into their schools and supported tamariki and whānau to learn te reo Māori together at home.

Developing reciprocal relationships that benefited schools, whānau, and local hapori was also an important avenue for strengthening reo Māori teaching and learning opportunities in schools and in communities.

Raising profile and status

Pou reo in English-medium primary schools have an important role to play in influencing the beliefs and attitudes of tamariki and communities towards te reo Māori. The report findings show that pou reo were leaders who took others along with them.

They acknowledged and supported those who were actively working to grow te reo Māori and advocated to increase the visibility of te reo Māori in their schools.

“Because I rely on [that teacher’s] skill and knowledge, she has a management unit to make sure that she is recognised with a leadership position because it [te reo and tikanga Māori] is important,” says a non-Māori principal.

Pou reo also encouraged positive attitudes towards te reo Māori in tamariki so that tamariki could share their positivity and learning with those at home.

Although there was some evidence that attitudes towards te reo Māori are changing for the better, racism continues to be directed at Māori and te reo Māori in some school communities. There is still much work to be done to ensure all school environments and communities value te reo Māori and see the language as ‘normal’.

Pou reo who were prepared to have critical conversations with colleagues and community members were able to challenge racist assumptions and ideas.

Having long-term plans and a shared vision is important in growing te reo Māori in schools.

Having long-term plans and a shared vision is important in growing te reo Māori in schools.

“I remind them that they are in Aotearoa. I say, ‘You’re in Aotearoa, this is our indigenous people, this is our indigenous culture.’ And I say that this is also part of the curriculum, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. I say, we are under a code of ethics as well. So, I have said to any teacher that comes to me with their raru about how they don’t want to be teaching it, I remind them of what their obligation is as a kaiako,” says a kaiako Māori.

Providing reo Māori teaching and learning

All the schools visited were providing tamariki with teaching and learning experiences that supported Māori language acquisition and raised the profile and status of te reo Māori to some extent.

However, permanent reo Māori domains such as bilingual classes made a particularly important contribution to meeting the aspirations of whānau for reo Māori education and elevating the status of te reo Māori.

In addition, through goodwill, modelling, and sharing of practices by pou reo, bilingual classes enabled tamariki in other parts of their schools to gain greater access to reo Māori learning opportunities.

“Because [the bilingual unit] is so strong, many things that have happened in there have spilled over ... The unit is very valuable for that,” says a non-Māori principal.

Recruiting staff who can speak te reo Māori is a major challenge for schools. For the most part, teachers are tasked with teaching te reo Māori while still learning it themselves.

Schools had identified a range of creative ways to support teachers with their learning. Where this involved the provision of informal in-house professional learning opportunities, this was typically provided by pou reo Māori.

“When I started last year, ‘Oh, what’s the Māori word for this?’ Now they know how to go look for themselves and research it... He waka eke noa,” says a kaiako Māori.

Schools were also increasing the proficiency and confidence of teachers by funding formal professional learning opportunities, employing reo Māori speakers in their communities, and bringing in external support when needed.

Looking to the future, and mindful of the positive steps that schools are currently taking to support reo Māori revitalisation, the report poses the following questions:

What other innovative approaches could be explored to better support tamariki to learn and use te reo Māori?

Could a map or register of schools be created for whānau to show how – and to what extent – schools expect to be able to support tamariki to gain proficiency in te reo Māori?

Can new reo Māori learning pathways be created so that tamariki who begin their schooling in English-medium schools can learn te reo Māori at a level that would enable them to transition smoothly to a Māori-medium kura at any point in their education?

Being clear about how, and to what extent, a school can support tamariki to develop their reo Māori proficiency is an important element of Māori language planning.

Providing this information can assist whānau – for whom te reo Māori is an important consideration – with making informed decisions during transitions to and from primary school.

Ideally, the findings presented here, and in the team’s full report, will prompt those in English-medium primary schools to have critical conversations about identity, positioning, motivation, te reo Māori, and racism, and to develop strategic approaches to Māori language teaching and learning.

Further resources

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:17 am, 30 March 2023

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