Plan will 'decimate' Maori options

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 27/09/2012
Woolston School
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Woolston School junior bilingual Maori class teacher Dot Singh with pupils, from left, Oceana Jorgensen, 6, Aiyanah Kainuku, 5, Corbin Fahey, 6, and Rongomaiwahine Rutene, 6.

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Maori education will be "decimated" if proposals to cut 70 per cent of bilingual and immersion classes go ahead.

The Education Ministry proposes to close or merge seven out of 10 Christchurch schools that offer Maori education.

The move appears to conflict with the Government's Maori education strategy that is designed to affirm Maori identity, language, culture and raise academic achievement.

The ministry said this month that Christchurch had a "limited range of immersion and bilingual options".

Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon said the iwi was seeking more information about the proposals, which were "inconsistent with this kaupapa [policy]".

Ngai Tahu was not formally consulted before the proposals were announced, he said.

Under the proposals, three schools could close and two could merge with other schools that do not offer bilingual classes.

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori schools Te Whanau Tahi and Te Kura Whakapumau Te Reo Tuturu Ki Waitaha could merge. Both lodged complaints with the Waitangi Tribunal last week.

Maori resource teacher Gaynor Hakaria, who co-ordinates and supports Maori education in Christchurch's eastern suburbs, said the proposal "goes against ministry strategy".

"I can't understand why there there has been no consultation with schools that have unique programmes," she said.

"We don't have enough information to know what or how Maori medium education will look in the future."

Most bilingual and immersion classes have full rolls.

Woolston School has a waiting list to join the 60 pupils spread over three bilingual classes.

Principal Janeane Reid said there had been no discussion about how bilingual classes would continue if the proposed merger with Phillipstown School went ahead.

Branston Intermediate principal Jennifer O'Leary said bilingual education would be "decimated" by the changes that might see the school close.

Closing so many facilities would significantly reduce choice for parents, she said.

The ministry's Shaping Education document says "the education system in Christchurch has underperformed for a disproportionate number" of young Maori.

The ministry envisages Maori pupils developing a strong identity of language and culture and for Ngai Tahu and Maori to have a strong influence in the education system.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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