This seven-part blog series is based on a symposium presented at the 2017 New Zealand Association for Research in Education conference by a group of student Warrior Researchers from Kia Aroha College in Ōtara, South Auckland.
Reading our world – Tino rangatiratanga?
Timitimi Ropata | Year 12 | Ngāti Toa Rangatira | Ngai Tai
Hūtia te rito o te harakeke:
Kei whea te kōmako e kō?
Rere ki uta,
Rere ki tai.
Kī mai ki ahau:
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
Māku e kī atu:
I nga wa katoa, ko te tamariki.
Tihei Mauri ora.
Kia ora koutou kua tae mai nei i tēnei ra.
Ko Timitimi Kato Ropata tōku ingoa.
He uri ahau no Ngāti Toa Rangatira me Ngai Tai.
Ka Hikitia, the Māori Education Strategy, has five guiding principles:
Surely it would follow that initiatives from the government that impact on Māori learners would adhere to these guiding principles. Isn’t that the purpose of guiding principles – that they guide our thinking, our actions, and our behaviour?
So I looked firstly at just one aspect of Communities of Learning and applied my analysis to see if it followed these five guiding principles. As Matthew has told us in his blog post, 99% of COLs think there is a major problem with Maori boys’ writing – so that was the obvious choice for my focus area. Here’s what I concluded:
- The Treaty of Waitangi principle in Ka Hikitia is explained as meaning, “Ensuring Māori students enjoy and achieve education success as Māori”. I think that the Treaty guarantees us Tino Rangatiratanga [absolute sovereignty]. What is “as Māori” about Māori boys’ writing? How is it any different from Pākehā boys’ writing? There is nothing Māori about this goal – it’s just a writing goal.
- How does “Māori boys’ writing” fit the Māori potential principle? It would seem that schools see very little in our potential. Is Māori potential defined by our writing results? It gives the impression that COLs and their achievement challenges are focused solely on our deficits rather than on our potential.
- The next principle, Ako describes a two-way teaching and learning process, but I question what teachers are learning about their practice when they obviously don’t know how to teach us how to write.
- When only 30% of CoL even mention culturally responsive learning as a pedagogy towards achieving their achievement challenges, how does this make identity, language or culture count?
- Lastly, productive partnerships. In the Treaty of Waitangi we’re promised equal partnership. How are these partnerships equal or productive when we as Māori learners are at the bottom of our educational statistics?
So I believe that taking a closer look at just this one target of Communities of Learning shows almost zero connection to the guidelines of Ka Hikitia — the very guidelines that the Ministry of Education say are central to their vision and their strategic planning for our education. There is:
- No tino rangatiratanga;
- No partnership (under Te Tiriti or otherwise);
- A focus on deficits instead of potential;
- Ako going one way only; and
- Very little sign that our identity matters.
My mana does not feel enhanced. It feels belittled.
When a Community of Learning is identifying its achievement challenges, the Ministry of Education suggests they ask these questions:
- What is our vision of success for our students?
- What are the common challenges across our Community of Learning?
- What do we know about possible reasons for these challenges and how do we know?
- What support will be needed and what resources are available to help?
So we thought we would ask those questions ourselves. Our survey participants were predominantly Māori. They included students and staff of Kia Aroha College, as well as parents and grandparents. Firstly, we asked for their definition of Tino Rangatiratanga; then we followed the Ministry of Education’s suggestions and asked those same four questions.
It is no surprise to us that the answers from our survey participants and the answers from the 77 Communities of Learning (as analysed by Matthew) are VERY different, and that almost 70% of our survey participants disagreed with the Ministry and COL goals!
My understanding of Tino Rangatiratanga is to have total chieftainship, authority, and control over our own destiny. In education, this could be interpreted as educational sovereignty, or having the right to an education system designed by us, for us. This was the dream of Māori whānau in the 1980s that led to the establishment of Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori, but how can we say that these are well supported by our education system when fewer than 4% of Māori learners can access this important model of schooling?
One survey participant stated:
“Tino Rangatiratanga is self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, self-government, rule, control, and power. Self-determination is about people having control and power over their lives.”
Others – in fact the majority of survey respondents – had similar answers that agreed with this definition.
Vision of success
Our survey participants’ ideas about success included being critically conscious, and having strong cultural knowledge. Their answers were diametrically opposed to the COLs’ vision of success. Our school community’s version of success is “to be proud to be Māori”, “to be able to fluently speak Te Reo Māori”, “to question everything,” and “to know who we are”.
COL achievement challenges
So where are these goals in the Communities of Learning achievement challenges? How can we possibly have Tino Rangatiratanga or educational sovereignty when what we want and what the government want are so different? A 2017 NZEI survey of principals in Communities of Learning found that while success for Māori learners is an achievement challenge in 70% of CoL, 75% of Col have not established a plan for Māori to succeed as Māori and 65% of CoL have not engaged with iwi or hapū in determining achievement challenges.
Our survey participants were very clear about the challenges that we as rangatahi Māori (Māori youth) face. Unsurprisingly, nobody said that we aren’t able write, read or do maths. Instead, participants’ responses included: the lack of cultural identity and little knowledge of where we are from; peer influences; and getting caught up in the drama and struggles of everyday life. Others referred to the barriers (internal and external) that prevent rangatahi Māori from wanting to be Māori and wanting to understand what that means. A student respondent summed up the challenges we face by saying:
“The real challenges are being able to identify, acknowledge, and define what’s oblivious to us—the systemic invisible hegemony that has been smoothed out for us, and refined so much that we don’t notice ourselves, our culture, and our identity being lost.”
As Matthew also asked after his analysis – are the schools in those 77 Communities of Learning asking themselves why they are achieving these results? Or do they think it’s our fault? In a recent blog post, our former principal, Nani Ann, asked “Why not White Boys’ Writing?” She wrote:
“Do we think White boys have an additional writing or reading gene that our Māori kids missed out on? Or do we think they had better parenting perhaps – you know, bedtime stories, books in the home, and all that? Or, here’s a thought, could it be that the whole system, the way we set up and structure schools, our teacher training, our obsession with copying failed policy from other countries which also marginalise their indigenous learners, the knowledge we value—and measure—is also White and it, therefore, benefits the children whose values match, and whose values are embedded in and reproduced by our schools?“
We learned that COLs have certain things they have to include in their achievement challenges, in order for them to get Ministry of Education approval. One of the items they have to include is us – Māori, or, as the Ministry describes us, their “priority learners.” The achievement challenges also have to focus on literacy and numeracy, so we were told that COLs often say, “We just write those achievement challenges to get the funding, then we can change them later.”
As Nani Ann asked, “So, what’s so bad about just saying in your challenge statements that you want to target Māori boys’ writing, even if that’s not what you mean?”
I know the answer to this question because I, and all my peers, know how this feels.
Every single time you write your challenges to focus on Māori boys’ writing or the literacy and numeracy deficits of Māori or Pasifika learners, you tell us that we are the problem – and, what’s worse, we believe you, even when we really know it’s not true, we know it’s NOT our fault, and we know the finger should be pointing at schools’ inability to value who we are and uphold our mana and tino rangatiratanga. The problem is that when schools, and the Ministry of Education, and the government, and the majority of society, put us down often enough, we suspend our better judgement, we take on all the negatives, and the damage is done.
The final post in the series provides further critique at the national policy level as well as student voices around visions of success.
To view all posts in the series, click here.
The 2017 Kia Aroha College Warrior-Researchers Group was made up of eight students in Years 12 and 13.
The following six students presented the group’s work at the 2017 NZARE Conference in Hamilton:
- Jasmine Bellamy | Year 13 | Ngāti Kahu | Ngāti Kahungunu
- Pilisi Mafi | Year 13 | Toa ko Pouvalu | Vai ko Puna
- Foloiola Finau | Year 12| Hufangalupe | Lotokaiano
- Matthew Katipa | Year 13 | Tainui | Ngāti Whātua
- Jacob Harris-Kaaka | Year 12 | Te Aupouri | Ngāti Kuri
- Timitimi Ropata | Year 12 | Ngāti Toa Rangatira | Ngai Tai
Two further students, Aneeva Cherrington-Christie and Harry Seuala, also contributed during the year. The group acknowledge the support of their past principal, Dr Ann Milne, who mentored them through their research.