Gifted Maori children are being overlooked in the classroom because teachers are failing to recognise their unique genius, says a researcher.
Massey University education associate professor Jill Bevan-Brown said schools tend to focus on academic subjects but giftedness in Maori students is broader.
"Not all teachers are aware of Maori concepts of giftedness – and because they are not aware of those concepts they won't see them."
A Maori child may also feel uncomfortable or undervalued in the class so they purposely hide their abilities, she said.
Ministry of Education figures show Maori students lag behind the rest of the population when it comes to school success.
Dr Bevan-Brown said it is time for schools to take a Maori perspective.
Often a quiet, well-liked Maori pupil will bring out the best in other children in the class or playground, she said.
Although a confident leader, the child doesn't seek recognition and may be overlooked if they fail to shine in maths and English.
"Generally we focus on the academic areas. There is a hierarchy of subjects and other areas of giftedness suffer," Bevan-Brown said.
"Social giftedness is just as important. Being outstanding in manaakitanga [hospitality] for example, is just as important as being gifted in maths."
Around 15% of the population are estimated to be gifted but 15% of the Maori population are not in special programmes, she said.
It is important for Maori children to have their abilities recognised because they are from a minority group and children are aware they are already at a disadvantage, she added.
Bevan-Brown called on teachers to recognise students for different reasons, such as those with a sense of social justice or concerns for the environment.
"It's so important we do because we want gifted leaders who have great sense of social responsibility."
Despite her concerns, she said there is a lot to celebrate.
"Many gains have been made in recent years, and I feel real aroha for those teachers that are doing a wonderful job.
"There is lots of really good work being done by Pakeha teachers in this area but we need more Maori teachers – not instead of, but as well as."
Bevan-Brown was presented with a Te Manu Kotuku award last month for her research into gifted children.
- © Fairfax NZ News