Understanding histories will broaden conversations

Issue: Volume 98, Number 18

Posted: 24 October 2019
Reference #: 1HA1CJ

Understanding Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories will open up more effective conversations between people, says principal Chris Bell.

Chris Bell, the principal of the Bay of Islands International Academy, describes the teaching of New Zealand‘s histories in schools as “absolutely essential”.

“The misunderstandings that arise from a poor understanding of our history, certainly our colonial history, gives rise to racism and intolerance. Those are issues that still live with us today.

“Fundamentally, an accurate knowledge of our past prepares us better for decisions in the present. A sound understanding of our history will open up more effective conversations between people in New Zealand.”

The Academy is based near Te Tii in Kerikeri, an area rich in local history, with a wealth of stories, events, people and landmarks that over time have shaped not just the Bay of Islands, but the entire country.

Aotearoa’s first formal school, Marsden Cross, was established nearby at Rangihoua. The area was also the first to establish pastoral farming and orcharding in New Zealand.

It’s here that te reo Māori was first written and where in 1835 a declaration of independence, Te Whakaputanga, with the promise of a Māori government, was signed by 52 chiefs. On 6 February 1840 the Bay of Islands was the backdrop for the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Our history is so rich that it provides an opportunity for our students to find themselves in our own local heroes that have been part of forging the story that is New Zealand,” Chris says.

Iwi and hapū voices vital

Chris feels it is vital that iwi and hapū are at the forefront of conversations about local history, so that it is relevant and effective for students.

Connecting with mana whenua histories is important for students to better understand the place they call home and how they are part of a larger story, they are a part of history and they make history every day.

“That is one of the things I am trying to do with our local Māori community to open the doors to those stories for our children,” Chris says.

“With the help of the local hapū, Ngāti Rehia, our children are being shared the pepeha and whakapapa of the people of this area, so all our children understand the significant places they are surrounded by – the maunga, moana and awa – all the places that are important to local people.”

Not without challenges

As significant as it is, Chris says teaching New Zealand’s histories in schools will have its challenges.

“We very much rely on external support to give us that local expertise and provide that opening for us. One of the big challenges for teachers is a fear of stepping into that space and feeling comfortable about doing it.”

To help with this, the Ministry of Education will work with experts, Māori, Pacific communities, the sector, students, parents and whānau, and other groups to develop a common framework for teaching New Zealand’s histories.

A resources package will be developed ready for the 2022 school year. This will allow schools and kura to include the new content and learning expectations in their local curriculum, working in partnership with local communities and mana whenua.

Helpful resources

Resources produced by the Ministry of Education, such as Te Takanga o te Wā – Māori History Guidelines Years 1–8, already exist to help teachers and are being used by some schools and kura.

Laures Park, NZEI Te Riu Roa Matua Takawaenga, describes Te Takanga o te Wā as an “excellent resource” that gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate with local iwi and hapū in teaching the stories and histories of their geographic location.

“Many schools have taken up this approach very easily and successfully. As a result, tamariki have gained a deeper sense of their history and personal identity,” she says.

Find out more about Te Takanga o te Wā – Māori History Guidelines Years 1–8(external link) 

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

Posted: 2:05 pm, 24 October 2019

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