Push to get Maori students on top
Teachers need to be aware of what being Maori means to their students before there will be change in their academic performance.
That was the message Associate Eduction Minister Dr Pita Sharples delivered at a Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa New Zealand conference in Palmerston North yesterday.
Dr Sharples said that for 50 years reports had pointed to the underachievement of Maori students compared with Pakeha, and yet the situation had not changed.
‘‘I am tired of Maori being at the bottom of the barrel, there is no need for them to be and we need to do something about it.’’
A 2009 study of OECD countries in 2009 found New Zealand students ranked seventh in the developed world for literacy, but rose to second if the scores of Maori and Pacific Island students were removed.
‘‘Maori were 34th.’’
There was no reason why Maori could not achieve at the same level as other students, he said.
During his address, Dr Sharples discussed the birth of the kohanga reo movement in 1981 and his involvement in setting up the first kura kaupapa, in West Auckland, a few years later.
He gave personal anecdotes of his youth, and his experiences teaching children things he had learnt watching his own family grow up.
In mainstream education, he said, there was little understanding of what it meant for a child to be Maori – the importance to them of the land of their history.
‘‘We have not stopped being Maori, even those who do not speak Maori, think Maori,’’ he said.
‘‘Is it possible in mainstream schools to recognise those things that make them Maori so they can just be and learn, instead of being fearful of not being right or being different.’’
Dr Sharples said one area that needed work was the teaching of New Zealand’s history before the arrival of Europeans, something there was sparse mention of in the country’s classrooms.
‘‘You’d think New Zealand history started with Captain Cook, or with [Abel] Tasman, but it didn’t, it didn’t start there.’’
The three-day TEFANZ conference has brought together people involved in teacher education from around the country. It started yesterday and is being held at Massey University’s Turitea campus.
Dr Sharples’ address was given at the start of a panel discussion on the future of education, involving the heads of education departments at several New Zealand universities.