Learning experiences of non-Māori students learning te reo Māori

Issue: Volume 97, Number 14

Posted: 13 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9jwL

Rutherford College te reo Māori and Japanese teacher Will Flavell and student Jasween Mala share their experiences in teaching and learning te reo Māori.

Will Flavell was inspired to begin a PhD at the University of Otago to understand the learning experiences of non-Māori students learning te reo Māori.

 “Māori students are motivated to learn te reo Māori because it is their culture and language, but the motivations and learning experiences of non-Māori secondary school students learning te reo Māori weren’t clear, as there’s no current research on it.”

His PhD looks at students in his own school, where there are 141 students learning te reo Māori, 23 per cent of whom are non-Māori.

Will used the photo-voice research method to investigate their learning experiences, where students took photos to illustrate their learning experiences of te reo Māori.

“I interviewed a small number of students from each year level with a mix of different ethnicities. They shared their photos during the interview and spoke about them. It gave students the opportunity to share their experiences in an authentic manner.”

What motivates students?

Will found that Rutherford College’s culture of fostering te reo Māori and tikanga Māori is a key motivator of students, regardless of their ethnicity, to learn te reo Māori.

“Manaakitanga is an important ethos of our school. We’ve held a fundraiser for Te Puea marae by making and selling Matariki burgers to support homeless whānau that are experiencing difficult times. We also have a community dawn ceremony coming up for Matariki in Te Atatū Peninsula and many of our students will volunteer for the day to support the event.”

The school has two te reo Māori teachers and other teachers learning te reo. Will says there are lots of ways every teacher can promote the language in the classroom, including through multimedia.

“For example with Matariki, there are opportunities for learning about Matariki in subjects such as science and maths. I have taught about Matariki in my Japanese language class by students learning the different names of the stars using Japanese characters and making a link with the Subaru car symbol and the Matariki stars.”

Year 13 student Jasween Mala has studied te reo Māori with Will for five years. Once she finishes school, she plans to become a police officer. She gets really excited about class when it is tailored to her interests.

“In class one of the things we like to do is watch documentaries. Because I want to become a police officer, I love watching crime documentaries in te reo Māori – they’re so interesting.”

Will says his students see learning te reo Māori as positively influencing their future.

“I do believe that non-Māori learners of te reo Māori are role-models for our national language and are a positive influence to their own respective communities.

“For example, all my senior te reo Māori students have identified te reo Māori as being important for their future career. So it is my responsibility to ensure that students have a good understanding of the Māori language and tikanga to support their future aspirations.”

Te reo Māori is Jasween’s third language after English and Hindi. She initially took up te reo Māori for the language, but it has brought her so much more than that, and has helped set her up for her future as a police officer.

 “I also did it to set a path for other ethnic people, not just other Māori people but, for example, the Indian and European people to learn te reo Māori.”

“Learning te reo Māori has really helped me connect with people of other cultures. I’ve really made good connections with Māori people. These skills will help me as a police officer.

“I’ve ended up having so many great experiences from doing Māori that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t. From being a school leader, going on a school trip to Wellington, winning awards.”

Words of wisdom for other teachers

As for advice for teachers looking to encourage more non-Māori students to study te reo Māori, or encourage those already studying, Will considers it everyone’s responsibility to encourage all students to learn te reo Māori.

“Kaupapa Māori values interwoven in the te reo Māori classroom such as manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and aroha are concepts that can support all students and their learning. These are principles that are at the core of te reo Māori classes.

“It is also important to highlight the importance of te reo Māori in the future. Te reo Māori and tikanga Māori will play a pivotal role in the future of work and employers will be looking for those that have these particular skills.”

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

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 August 2018

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