The agency of Māori in education

Issue: Volume 98, Number 15

Posted: 2 September 2019
Reference #: 1H9xpT

Hearing voices traditionally not heard – those of Māori and Pacific peoples, of young people, of those living with a disability or with learning support needs – is the aim of Education Conversation | Kōrero Mātauranga.

In 2018, the Ministry of Education asked people, via an online survey, what changes they wanted in education. Quotes, data, and stories from 16,466 people flooded in. These were collected into a series of Voices reports, which are being launched this year.

The latest is Voices of Māori, comprising feedback from some 2,122 people.

Dr Wayne Ngata, Raukura/Chief Advisor Te Ao Māori at the Ministry of Education, says that although what came back from the survey is nothing new, it means there is now data to show.

“The stories are all there. They’re there in black and white. And they’re there in the words of the children, the teachers, the principals, the board members, and anyone else who’s got a stake in education.”

A conference held in the 1930s had some of the same themes coming through, he recounts. At that time there were issues in the system with racism. This is still the case and we need to ensure that language, culture and identity are not lost and understand that Māori are not homogenous and don’t all learn the same way.

Clear messages given

“Kōrero Mātauranga provided a lot of good information. People’s ideas. People’s aspirations. People’s moans and groans, and that has been able to be coalesced, broken down, into themes or simple statements and messages that have come from New Zealand. Certainly, we’ve got some clear messages from Māori.”

Addressing this is a kaupapa to which Dr Ngata has dedicated his life – ensuring Māori can have a good standard of living, are well educated, have stable futures, and are supporting the next generations.

Aspiring to better outcomes

It’s quite simple, he says. He wants a safe world, a healthy future for his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. A healthy future, where they can all succeed as Māori.

“There’s some realities about the negative statistics that exist and are part and parcel of what’s happening today. That’s not what drives me, because that’s a deficit approach. It is there, so what do you do to ensure that it’s reduced, or not there? You aspire to other things. You aspire to better outcomes.”

What’s the endpoint of Kōrero Mātauranga? For Dr Ngata it’s to reflect back to New Zealanders what they felt in a way that is meaningful for them, but also that policy analysts and decision makers are using this information in their work.

With that in mind, what would success look like?

“I think at last count we’ve got 19 or 20 reviews that are taking place. Those reviews have taken into account what’s come out of the conversations and they need to be tested against that,” says Dr Ngata.

“Right now, we’ve got Tomorrow’s Schools on the agenda, workforce strategy, early learning strategy, tertiary education strategy, Ka Hikitea (Māori Education Strategy) refresh, it’s huge.”

Vision for the future

The information the Ministry has received is feeding into the 30-year vision for the future of education and Dr Ngata says it’s important that the voices from Kōrero Mātauranga are listened to.

“From a Māori point of view, we’ve got about five or six messages coming through. We need to make sure that in all the reviews that are taking place we consider issues of the authority and agency of Māori; the education of Māori children; being free of racism in the system, the education system; identity, language and culture being critical to supporting the success of Māori; understanding that Māori are not homogenous, one size does not fit all –
in terms of how you work with Māori.

‘Acceptable loss’ unacceptable

“The system that we have is based on the economics 101 model of 85 per cent succeed, 15 per cent acceptable failure. That’s an acceptable loss. The issue is that that acceptable loss are the brown learners. How do you change that sort of approach? This is generational. Dangerously generational, inter-generational,” he says.

For Dr Ngata, ‘tweaking the system’ is not enough – it needs to change. He says the Ministry is making inroads but “in all honesty, there are not enough Māori minds to be across it, so we need to ensure other minds are helping and understand that.

“That’s the challenge. We simply haven’t got enough people in the decision-making places… it’s having that diversity at the decision-making points. That’s what success looks like.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:08 am, 2 September 2019

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