The country's first university degree for teachers in Maori immersion schools will address a "critical shortage" in the number of Maori teachers, says the course's designer.
The Maori immersion teaching course, Te Aho Tatairangi, was launched at Massey University's Hokowhitu campus yesterday.
Massey University associate professor Huia Tomlins Jahnke, who led the development of the course, said the four-year degree would help meet a shortage of expert te reo teachers and help halt the decline of the language.
Dr Jahnke, who heads the university's School of Maori Education, said the course aimed to supply 200 Maori immersion graduates by 2020. "There is a shortage of teachers nationally, and in the Maori sector that shortage is critical and our graduates will help to build a bigger talent pool.
"It will also help the long-term rejuvenation of te reo Maori."
The 27 students enrolled in the first year of the course were welcomed at yesterday's launch at Te Kupenga o te Matauranga Marae at Hokowhitu.
Among those who attended was Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who said the degree – launched in the same week as Waitangi Day – was a step "along the journey of partnership". "Our founding document inspires us to consider, collectively, how to improve the participation and achievement of tangata whenua."
The Treaty also challenged New Zealanders to find ways to protect te reo and Maori culture, she said.
The qualification the students would obtain was important.
"They represent the knowledge and understanding, the kaupapa and the aspirations that will inform and influence our children and our mokopuna for years to come."
- Manawatu Standard