It is said that in the year 2021 the Maori population will be 749,000. That will represent a 28% growth since 2001 and at that time Maori will comprise 16.6% of the population but Maori will also comprise19% of the 15 – 39 of the age group in our country.
The median average age of Maori will be 26.8 years, whereas the national medium is likely to be 39 .8 years. So one gets the picture of a youthful Maori population in a New Zealand population that is generally getting older, and in 2021 18% of the New Zealand population will be over the age of 65.
So we have a Maori population that is young. Will it also be educated? Will it also have access to employment? Will that young Maori population be ready to support taxation and the ageing non-Maori population whose needs will increase and the resultant costs of taking care of them will also increase?
– Sir Paul Reeves, Anew NZ Vision excerpt

Compared to other OECD countries, New Zealand is classified as having a high quality education system delivering low equity. The spread of achievement for the education system in New Zealand consistently shows that there is a significant gap between those who are achieving and those who are not achieving. Maori are consistently over-represented in the latter.
While television cameras will never capture a child dying from lack of education, every year our tamariki and rangatahi are disadvantaged by injury from accidents, diseases, and other conditions that might have been prevented had their whanau had a chance to complete a quality basic education. Instead, television cameras capture many of our rangatahi and whanau who are affected through lack of quality education, loss of economic opportunity and social isolation.

The 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey showed that the majority of Maori are functioning below the level required to meet the demands of everyday life. With low income, early exit from formal education and Maori ethnicity combined as variables, the importance of an equitable education is highlighted in the experiences of many low- or unskilled Maori whanau living in poverty and isolation.
Whereas BayBuzz asked whether the weakest link in education is with parents, teachers or the bureaucracy, what we really need to consider is where the greatest change can occur in how our children enjoy success in education.

Russell Bishop, a professor of Maori education at Waikato University, in addressing educators at a seminar in Napier in 2005, commented that the educational bureaucracy has changed very little in the last twenty to forty years, and if we want this change to make a difference for our children in class today we will be waiting a long time. For those teachers who bemoan the parenting and lack of family support for education, and the social issues many of our children suffer at home, as reasons for poor achievement, our children in front of them today will be damned, as these social and economic changes also take time … and won’t happen by 9am Monday morning.

The real chance for our children to achieve is through the craft of good teaching and the passion of good teachers. We need to look more closely at the teachers that are in front of our children and the institutions that are training them. An Education Review Office review of Colleges of Education would be a good start. It is the job of the Ministry of Education to ensure that the supply side of education is delivering equitable outcomes for our children.

Cultural knowledge is critical
Our organisation, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated, has been involved in various education projects over the past six years – we have reviewed baseline data from the education sector twice (noting little or no change in outcomes for our students), have developed an iwi education plan and a Maori language strategy. Our current research focuses on the assumption that cultural knowledge contributes to Maori student success. Over the coming years we will develop tools and training for teachers and families to look at how the home-school partnership can be improved and how cultural knowledge can be shared and integrated into this partnership to give it meaning and reciprocity.

This project aligns to National Maori education achievement projects, including Te Kotahitanga, Te Kauhua and Te Hiringa I Te Mahara and the new Maori education strategy launched by the Ministry of Education last year, Ka Hikitia. The Ministry strategy notes that culture counts, that there is a need for productive partnerships and that there is Maori potential not being realised.
There is no direct resourcing of Ka Hikitia (no additional funding for schools) and I am in two minds on this. One is that schools are already being resourced to deliver quality education for all children, including ours! And the other is that we need a national roll-out of projects like Te Kotahitanga, Te Kauhui and our project, Te Pae Huarewa, if we are to make the change in positioning and practice of our educators that will deliver the educational success our children and families urgently need and deserve.

Iwi and families need to be better resourced to strengthen the demand side of education – parents need to feel confident in monitoring the achievement of their children and the school as a whole. We should be confident in working with other parents to get what we collectively want for our children. These successful advocacy skills would also stand us in good stead in other areas of our lives.

If you think that you alone cannot do much to improve your school you are probably right. But if you collaborate with other parents and organisations, you can make a difference. There is strength and power in numbers.

1 parent = A fruitcake
2 parents – A fruitcake and a friend
3 parents = troublemakers
5 parents = “Let’s have a meeting”
10 parents = “we’d better listen”
25 parents = “our dear friends”
50 parents = a powerful organisation

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