Government guidance set to encourage te reo Māori in schools

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

For the first time, the Government's launched specific guidance for mainstream schools to increase te reo Māori use.

It comes 155 years after lawmakers actively discouraged te reo Māori use in education through the 1867 Native Schools Act.

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The education system played a significant role in the language being at risk of extinction decades later.

“Today we start to put the wrongs of the past right, we build from today, we know that this is the opportunity for something beautiful to grow with the language of our country and I think that for all of our tamariki and rangatahi in this country that has to be a good thing,” Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said.

The Education Review Office’s Poutama Reo is a resource the Government is encouraging English medium schools to use to review their te reo capabilities and receive evidence-informed guidance on how to improve the incorporation of te reo Māori, one of the country’s official languages.

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed 182 years ago and only now we’re starting to address in real meaningful ways the loss of language which leads to the loss of culture so this framework Poutama Reo is essential – it’s a wonderful tool for teachers in mainstream schools to be able to lift the language abilities, te reo language ability of the children in their care,” Associate Education Minster Māori Education Kelvin Davis said.

“It’s essential to the identity of us all as New Zealanders.”

Six schools trialled the approach, including Brookfield School in Tauranga.

“I’m extremely honoured… normalising te reo Māori across Aotearoa gives an opportunity, not for just tauira Māori, or students who are Māori, but ngā tauira katoa o Aotearoa (all students of New Zealand).

“I think we have a job to do to enable all tangata whenua (people of the land) and all people of New Zealand, Aotearoa to tokoa te reō Māori (support te teo),” tumuaki/principal Ngaere Durie said.

Durie said her whānau was beaten by teachers for speaking te reo Māori and that she is from a generation that had to learn the language as an adult.

She said teachers need to be supported to make time for learning te reo Māori.

“Often kaiako have to learn outside of their workings hours and that's just a huge strain and listening to the workload of our kaiako, of our teachers, they express how much load that they have on them.”

Education Review Office Te Tāhū Whare deputy chief executive Lynda Pura-Watson said it’s important non-Māori understand how important this work is.

“I cried today cause this is bigger than any one person, this is our babies, our whānau, hapū and iwi and returning to all of them what they deserve,” she said.

When asked what other resources are needed for Poutama Reo and the Government’s 2040 revitalisation goals to be successful, Pura-Watson said this is the start of a big kaupapa (subject).

“The phases we take need to be considered and ordered and not everybody getting ERO'd cause that's not a good thing right so that's why the team that are working alongside kura/schools will be Māori who have language acquisition strategies and will be able to advise and support.”

ERO chief executive Nicholas Pole announced from Term 1, 2023, staff will be visiting schools to advise on appropriate te reo Māori use and to support teachers.

He also announced that ERO will report on the state of te reo Māori use in English medium schools every two years.

Through Te Ahu o te reo Māori, the Government is offering up to 10,000 places a year for teachers to take part in lessons.

‘Since beginning in mid-2021, a total of 6,190 participants have enrolled in Te Ahu o te reo Māori,’ a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said.