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  • Antonia Quinn

“You can’t just fix one little piece of a very broken system”: Tauira Māori need tertiary reform

Image credit: Taumata Aronui

A “think piece” called Manu Kōkiri – Māori Success and Tertiary Education: Towards a Comprehensive Vision from the brilliant minds of Taumata Aronui (the bros from the Tertiary Education Commission) was recently released, outlining recommendations for the Ministry of Education, the Minister for Māori-Crown Relations and the wider tertiary education system to consider when it comes to the educational pursuits of tauira Māori.

Taumata Aronui was originally supposed to do advisory stuff on the Review of Vocational Education, engari, e hika ma, “you can't just fix one little piece of a very broken system,” Mamaeroa Merito (from Taumata Aronui) says.

As tangata whenua, we're already statistics living in a colonised world. It's also tough being tauira Māori trying to resist the urge to assimilate with your peers in an institution that traditionally sees the fall of Māori retention rates and wonder why qualification pass rates aren't as anticipated as other students.

According to John Gerritsen's RNZ News article, last year only 52% of tauira completed their university qualifications and 48% at Polytechs.

Historically, we have prejudices against us: Lower retention rates, deficit focused, underfunding in spaces where we are supposed to be seen as equals with our peers. Merito says that with Manu Kōkiri, Taumata Aronui thought, “how do we change the narrative to be something more aspirational for Māori?”

As the saying goes, Mā te pā te tamaiti e whakatipu, which is why this document is vital for allowing tauira Māori to excel within and beyond the tertiary education system. Tauira need culturally appropriate support with incentives to succeed rather than penalties for flopping. Tertiary education should no longer come at the expense of the diaspora of our Māori identities.

It is important that a Te Ao Māori perspective is embedded in the education system – especially if the Ministry of Education envisions a system where Māori are supported in participating and achieving at all levels of tertiary education. Concepts from this Indigenous lens include mātauranga Māori, te reo Māori and tikanga Māori being treated with integrity at a tertiary level.

The report offers an Indigenous lens on our broken education system – and we know its faults very well as tauira Māori because we have lived through them. The recommendations put forward include:

  • Te Tiriti being implemented across the tertiary education sector

  • The Government investing in initiatives regarding equity and elimination of discrimination

  • Promoting initiatives for excellence, authority and leadership in Mātauranga Māori

  • Nurturing mana, health and wellbeing of Iwi/Māori communities through tertiary education

  • Harmonising policy across the education sector for a consistent approach

Manu Kōkiri is only a guideline of offered suggestions, and, as Mamaeroa says, tertiary education is “just one part of a tauira’s journey.” While developing the report, Mamaeroa says they “didn't see ourselves [our roopu] as calling all the shots and making all the decisions,” rather seeing Taumata Aronui steering the waka to “guide our ministry officials and those people in government positions to empower and give them direction.”

Through Manu Kōkiri, Taumata Aronui presents a vision for decolonising education and makes way for a wider Indigenous approach to learning. Now it's up to the Ministry of Education to fulfill their Te Tiriti obligations with a refreshed outlook on how to better tautoko us tauira Māori.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.


Antonia Quinn

Tainui, Raukawa ki Wharepuhunga



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