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  • Eden Roberts

Mahi from within

Our education system: failing our people, the least exciting to look at, and an extension of our colonial histories. I won’t sit here and act like I know the ins and outs of the system, because I don’t. But what I do know is that pākehā people sit in positions of power and continue to act like they know what’s best for Māori. I also know that the systems Māori walk and navigate through are not tikanga, and we need that transformational change. The odds are consistently stacked against Māori and it’s hard to thrive in a system built to keep us out. It’s built for the Steves and the Emilys (no offence if this is your name but like those do be white people names).


Our indigenous hearts want to tear the education system down from the outside to rebuild something completely different, something rooted in Te Ao Māori which is our ultimate goal and shared purpose. However, as much as that is our ultimate objective, there is other significant mahi going on inside the system which is also valuable, needed, and productive. The different kaupapa we involve ourselves in can all work towards that ultimate goal. Keeping that shared purpose consistent throughout is what will make change. We need Māori on the inside too, because we are faced with the fights every day to reclaim and take back what’s rightfully ours.


As much as we all want to complain about colonisation and its ongoing impacts for Māori, the changes happening within the colonial education system improve outcomes for Māori and these are important to highlight too. The Ministry of Education is currently refreshing the National Curriculum (which is made up of Te Mārautanga o Aotearoa and the New Zealand Curriculum). This includes producing a curriculum that has aspects of local tikanga, mātauranga Māori, and te ao Māori. There are plans for it to be fully implemented in schools by 2025.


The current te reo Māori curriculum is going to be strengthened by changes being made to Tau Mai Te Reo (The Māori Language and Education strategy). There are goals and conditions within Tau Mai Te Reo, for te reo Māori to be seen, read, heard, and spoken more in Aotearoa. This includes that by 2040, 85% (or more) of New Zealanders will value the Māori language as a key part of their national identity. One million (or more) will have the ability and confidence to talk about the most basic things in te reo Māori, and 150,000 Māori aged 15 and over will use te reo Māori at least as much as English. This means the curriculum will have an opportunity to both highlight our culture and show respect to the diversity within the student body by making sure that tauira Māori are better supported within the education system.


Some other exciting change is that there is new curriculum content being built and produced for Te Takanga o te Wā. Te Takanga o te Wā helps teachers educate their students on Māori history and encourages them to consider local contexts by supporting engagement with local iwi and hapū; it is an avenue for our histories to finally be taught. Underpinning this curriculum content is a structure built off whakapapa, tūrangawaewae, mana motuhake, kaitiakitanga, and whānaungatanga.Through these concepts, students and teachers can connect, understand, and form opinions on Māori histories. It also allows Māori students to understand contemporary issues affecting them, and provides them with knowledge that will help them to better understand their communities, landmarks, historical events, development, and histories. Te Takanga o te Wā does not leave as much room as our current mainstream curriculum does for misinformation, and it gives our tamariki knowledge to take forward with them to thrive in Aotearoa. Māori students have a right to learn about their own histories and for it to be recognised as the foundational history of this country. The kind of mahi put into this curriculum will provide students with knowledge that is valuable and impactful not only for them as individuals, but also for their communities and sense of collectiveness.


Māori working within these systems and applying their rich experiences and knowledge is exciting and impactful. The curriculum refresh is a chance for systemic reform that will impact the future of our tamariki. We need these systemic reformations alongside dismantling and rebuilding the systems. Using the system to create frameworks and encourage revitalisation allows for shifts to happen. If there was ever a time to push the Government for what we want in education, that time is now. That time is now for us to be great tūpuna for our tamariki and mokopuna. The work happening on the inside is creating opportunities for us to play a part in shaping the systems to best benefit our people. Keeping our eyes peeled and jumping at these opportunities to make our voices heard and apply our knowledge, skills, experiences, and input is important for tamariki now and the generations after us. Education is going to be a lot more bicultural and inclusive, as it should be and as it should have been a long time ago.


Now is the time to ask ourselves, what do we want for our tamariki? What do we need for our mokopuna? How can we work to transform the current systems alongside radically reimagining new ones? We have wisdom, we know what’s best for our people and our communities. Enough with the white people in power telling us what they think we need and what they think we should do. We know what our whānau needs. We know how we should navigate these spaces. There is power in what we have to say and even more so when we say it out loud and collectively for our shared purpose. Our feedback, questions, opinions, and advice hold mana, so let’s get involved. Let’s reclaim what is ours. Let’s fuck shit up.


Ki te kotahi te kākaho, ka whati; ki te kāpuia, e kore e Whati.


If a reed stands alone, it can be broken; if it is in a group, it cannot.


As our ancestors knew, our togetherness holds power.


To send feedback and input on the New Zealand Curriculum refresh and to find out more information contact this email: nationalcurriculum.refresh@education.govt.nz


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air