In part three of our blog series we invite Wharehoka Wano to share his perspective on the Māori Education Strategy.
Kia ora Whare.
Kia ora Adele.
What does ‘Ka Hikitia Accelerating success 2013 – 2017’ mean to you?
I think it’s obviously about validating Māori students and where they’re from, their language, their culture, and identity initially. I think that’s probably one of the most important, but in fact it’s validating language, culture, and identity from whoever is in that classroom. So obviously an emphasis on Māori students, and Māori achievement but also in fact looking at other ways of acknowledging our tamariki – whoever is in your classroom. If we look at just language, culture, identity which is a big part of Ka Hikitia as well so it’s acknowledging everybody within that classroom.
What messages in Ka Hikitia do you value the most and why are they important to you?
There’s probably a number of messages. I like the validation of our way, our main principles around manaaki, you know treating people well, or relationships – it comes under that partnership area I suppose. It’s easy for us to talk about partnerships, and collaborations, and all those sorts of things with the school community and the Māori school community but how do we really act that out? How do we really play it out so from the time parents and tamariki arrive at that kura they can feel like, “Oh yeah this is [an] inviting, embracing place for me.” It’s not just about what happens in the classroom – you know that’s important too. Immediately feeling [that] who they are and where they’re from are being valued.
The principle of ako often comes up and I think that’s something that we as kaiako and school leaders are starting to understand more and more around... teaching and learning are reciprocal. The teacher is not the knower of all things, and in fact those kids that are coming in to that classroom, those Māori kids, or those Tongan kids, or those tamariki from Japanese, or Chinese, they bring in a lot of knowledge. We need to make sure that the knowledge is being shared.
You talk about ako as an important principle - what might it look like in schools?
We’re talking about very open classrooms that have tamariki driving a lot of their own content. It really needs more of a facilitation role. Now we’re in this virtual, digital world there’s opportunity for us to really get into this way of how our tamariki present work back. More importantly, the ako thing is that these kids come in with knowledge; let’s make sure that we take on a little bit of what they know. If it’s tribal stuff that we don’t know as kaiako, school leaders, those tamariki may well have it.
Another guiding principle that you’ve talked about is identity, language, and culture count . Could you talk about this further?
I think it’s the basis of everything really. The identity particularly, if I think about tamariki when I was a classroom teacher that felt very alien in a classroom environment or a school environment it was often around their own identity. Knowing who they are and where they’re from. There’s not all times we can help with that, it’s really steering them back to what’s happening within their homes or tribal communities and trying to make those connects - help them make those connects back to those places that are important to them. Utilising the resource people within the community and I think there’s just an endless supply certainly within that Māori community around those curriculum areas. You’ll have carvers, or people who are strong in kowhaiwhai, or weavers, or rongoā people who can add to the curriculum content and I think if school leaders and kaiako can think about mobilising, getting out amongst those communities, and the same within the other cultural communities in that school.
Language, and te reo Māori is obviously a focus here, but in fact it’s all languages, I think of our Pasifika nations that are coming into our classrooms now that are first language Samoan or Tongan speakers, they should be adding that colour to the classroom. And then culturally, of course, there’s more embracing of lots of other ways of doing things and if that’s going to help those kids to learn and understand, then power to them.
If schools are just beginning to focus on Ka Hikitia and action the strategy what advice would you give to them?
As school leaders, and as kaiako, its obviously knowing the community, knowing where your kids are coming from and having some real relationships with those other parts of the community. That school community, whatever that culture may be and that’s the starting point. I talked about that in terms of having a strong relationship with your Māori community, in terms of tribal things, it always starts within your school. If you cannot quite make the connection there you may have to step out a bit wider, supporting what is happening in the community, tribal events, kapa haka events that are out there, all sorts of ways of showing your face. Within Māoridom, particularly, if you’re seen as a school leader (as a teacher) out in the community that will have reciprocal positive effects in the classroom.
The important thing is if schools are thinking about where their Māori students are in terms of achievement, obviously around the important areas of literacy and numeracy then there’s a need to understand what this document is about. I’ve given some examples of how they can connect with local community around content. But also what are the important things to those kids? We need to talk to our own kids, what’s some content that’s important to them, something those kids are passionate about and use that to drive the curriculum. We’ve got a real issue around engaging Māori boys, around literacy, and what’s a way of engaging them? It’s finding content that they’re interested in. So we need to [honour] the student voice, we’ve been to enough seminars around student voice, we need to really play that out a bit more and manage it in classroom settings and our Māori students are no different. So Ka Hikitia is giving us some guidelines but it’s how we put those guidelines into practice.
Do you have a concluding message that you’d like to share with New Zealand schools?
These documents are there as a guideline but let’s not leave them as “I’ve read the document, I’ve ticked the box, and this is what I’m going to do.” We really need you to move out and engage with those communities, and engage with those kids and find out what rocks their boat, find out what really drives them, what they’re passionate about. If you’re going to keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’re always going to get the same results, we’ve heard that enough and it’s the same with our Māori kids. Ka Hikitia is talking to us about Māori student achievement and we expect you as kaiako to take up the challenge and do something with our kids.