Maori education in danger
The Education Ministry cannot guarantee the future of a targeted learning programme helping to lift the achievement of Maori secondary students in Hamilton.
And the Waikato University professor who founded the project warns there could be ‘‘disastrous’’ consequences if more funding is not committed to Maori education.
Te Kotahitanga - a project aimed at improving Maori students’ achievement - was taken on by Hamilton’s Melville High School in 2007, but Government funding for the school will taper off next year.
Principal Clive Hamill this week released data showing a drastic turnaround in the achievement and attitude of the school’s Maori students since the programme was introduced.
From 2008 to 2011, there was a steady increase in the percentage of Maori attaining NCEA level 1-3.
Those achieving NCEA level 1 rose from 36.6 to 54 per cent; level 2 from 20 to 73 per cent; and level three from zero to 35 per cent.
The number of Maori students staying in school for Year 13 also increased from 8 per cent in 2008 to 48 per cent this year.
The targeted, ‘‘culturally-sensitive’’ approach to teaching has helped the school achieve its top NCEA results across the board.
Mr Hamill said targeting Maori students required teachers to question conventional teaching methods. Rather than standing at the front of the classroom to deliver a lesson teachers engage more personally - discussing difficulties, goals - getting to know each student.
‘‘Suddenly you’re involving them in some choices in the management of their learning,’’ Mr Hamill said.
However, just as the project has started to make a difference, the Government will pull funding for the school after six years.
‘‘I think Government’s got a proud history of stuffing things up once they get going.’’
Mr Hamill said the school will continue the project out of its own budget, which will mean taking resources from another area.
Education Ministry group manager Pauline Barnes said the Ministry was ‘‘developing advice on possible options’’ about how to improve results for Maori students.
She did not answer questions about whether funding for Te Kotahitanga would be cut or changed. ‘‘No decisions have yet been taken.’’
Waikato University education professor and project director Russell Bishop said Government should provide ongoing funding and training for staff.
‘‘When schools actually don’t continue with the programme Maori student achievement starts to decline.
‘‘Why should we focus on Maori children? For social justice reasons and also for economic and social reasons. You can’t have a big group of the population who are not benefiting from the benefits that education has to offer them.’’
He said failing to invest further in lifting the achievement of Maori students was ‘‘disastrous because you continue with the overall impoverishment of the indigenous population of this country’’.
He said Te Kotahitanga was catering for Maori students where mainstream education wasn’t.
He said he was confident the Ministry would continue to fund the project.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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