Reo Māori Education statement ‘another one of those bureaucracy things’ – lecturer

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The government’s first statement of education priorities, which instructs schools and other learning institutions to incorporate te reo and tikanga, could have gone much further, a te reo Māori academic says.

A learning lesson from a book for teaching te reo Māori.

A lesson from a book for teaching te reo Māori. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the statement published this morning gave education providers a checklist of things to work on to incorporate the language into their everyday life in a meaningful way.

The listed objectives include:

  • Tikanga Māori is embedded in values, practices and organisational culture;
  • Leaders, teachers and staff are supported to develop their te reo Māori and tikanga Māori skills;
  • Learners have opportunities to learn te reo Māori and there’s a commitment to Te Tiriti

Victoria University of Wellington reo Māori lecturer Vincent Olsen-Reeder said he had heard it all before.

Victoria University of Wellington teaching fellow, Vincent Olsen-Reeder

Victoria University of Wellington lecturer Vincent Olsen-Reeder Photo: Supplied

“It’s great, right, but it’s really high-level. We’ve been doing high-level commitment stuff for so many years and still not changing stuff on the ground,” he said.

“It just feels like this is going to be another one of those bureaucracy things that never is actually going to reach the students. I would hope that there’s actually going to be a plan in place, I can’t see one, but I hope that there’s a plan in place so real outcomes come from this objective.”

In the statement, the government has committed to engaging with Māori to work out how best to incorporate te reo and tikanga in classrooms.

Olsen-Reeder said there had already been plenty of discussion on the topic and it was time for action.

“I’m sure we’ve done enough of that, if I’m being honest. I think we’re past that point and iI would really prefer it if they could actually do something,” he said.

“I think Māori have been asked for their opinion so much that now is the time to say ‘we’ve got the information’, and just do it.”

“The commitment to Te Tiriti is great, we should always have commitments to Te Tiriti, but I do wonder that because this is so high-level and not linked to a plan of engaging teachers and how we’re actually going to do this with teachers in order to pass it on to students, I guess I worry that this top-down pressure from the Ministry without any good planning in place to help staff along the way will mean the particularly negative teachers out there might pass their frustration onto students.”

Te Mātāwai is the body which administers Māori language institutional support, with two sides of the house dedicated to it – Te Maihi Karauna and Te Maihi Māori. The Ministry of Education’s involvement sits within Te Maihi Karauna.

Olsen-Reeder said it would be meaningful if the country adopted what Te Mātāwai was doing.

“One of those things is language planning, we actually go around the country, sitting with whānau, sitting with marae, sitting with communities, sitting with teachers sometimes, to figures how how to best include reo Māori in their spaces, whether its the home, the marae, the church and the school,” he said.

“One of the things I think would be really meaningful is if we actually had a national plan for this. I’ve seen that these all these objectives and directives… we’ve now got this new statement. There is so much out there that says, ‘let’s go seek advice’, and no one is saying, ‘why don’t we just go out there and plan something’,” he said.

“If it was me, I would actually go and have a national language plan and it would be done with Te Mātāwai.”

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