Number of Maori with degrees soars

SIENA YATES
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012
Raewyn Mahara
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

On the way: Raewyn Mahara – with son Te Awaiti Mahara, right, and second cousin Malikai Mahara – is about to complete her business masters.

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A growing number of Waikato Maori are donning a cap and gown and collecting their degrees each year.

Information released to the Waikato Times under the Official Information Act, shows the number of Maori gaining bachelors and postgraduate qualifications at Waikato University and Wintec has been rising steadily since 2008.

Maori tertiary students in New Zealand number in the thousands, with nearly 500 more gaining degrees last year than in 2010.

And while the Waikato's certificate and diploma graduate numbers have dropped - perhaps due to Wintec's shift in focus towards bachelors and postgraduate, national numbers have risen more than 6000 over the past five years.

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, pro vice-chancellor (Maori) at Waikato University, said it was a sign that Maori families were becoming more "switched on" and changing values in regards to education.

"The other thing we should be proud of is our institutions are trying harder and getting smarter about serving Maori needs more, as opposed to trying to make our students change.

"So it's very positive," she said.

Raewyn Mahara, a 42-year-old wife and mother of three, is due to graduate with a master of business administration in the coming months.

She already has a bachelor of education and a postgraduate diploma in Maori medium teaching and hopes to develop strategies for Maori families in terms of changing the face of education.

"I think we've moved away from traditional forms of education. The wananga [o Aotearoa], for example opened a lot of doors. There's more of a whanau environment that's comfortable to be in. That, plus flexible hours, online and weekend study which allows for family, is what makes a difference," she said.

"Maori are now more confident in ourselves and are more likely to enter into it. For a lot of people they are the first in the families to finish seventh form or to go to uni, we need to make that normal, not outstanding, something that every student should be doing.

"So this is heartening to hear. Hopefully they can help the next generation to do the same."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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