Internationally and locally we know that we have a focus on priority learners. And we know that there are certain learners who are over represented in that priority learner group. So Māori, Pasifika, and other bilingual learners, or what I like to call emergent bilinguals (rather than English language learners), are over represented in that priority learner group. And so we need to understand that internationally all the research tells us, that widespread school failure does not occur in minority groups that are positively orientated towards both their own and the dominant culture, that do not perceive themselves as inferior to the dominant group, and that are not alienated from their own cultural values.
So this requires all of us in education to create space and opportunity for these families and children to bring their linguistic and cultural resource into this school. One of the main messages that I would give to parents during parent conferencing was, “One of the best things you can do is speak your language to your children. That will set them up for academic success if you maintain your first language at home and you get your children to speak your language back to you.” All families want their children to get better at English but we need to help them to understand that one of the best ways for that to happen is to build the strength of the first language and to maintain it, rather than English replacing their own language.
We want these learners to be successful as who they are, for them to know that they don’t have to become someone else to be successful in our education system. So we talk about Māori achieving success as Māori, well actually that, is just as important for every other linguistically and culturally diverse group. So we want Pasifika to be successful as Pasifika or rather Samoan to be successful as Samoan, or Tongan to be successful as Tongan.
All schools are expected to promote Māori cultural competencies through Tātaiako which is a Ministry of Education document. So as we look at those Māori cultural competencies we can actually make connections with the cultural competencies that are nested in all community and family groups, so what does something like manaakitanga or ako or whanaungatanga look like for the other language and community groups that are represented in our school. So we continually need to be making connections between the valued knowledge of school, the valued knowledge of tangata whenua, and the valued knowledge of all the linguistic and cultural groups that are represented in our school.
This is about helping these children and communities to see that who they are and what they bring is absolutely fundamental and valuable for the teaching and learning process, and to be successful in our curriculum, and in our schooling system.