Start now – or keep at it! That’s the message from the Māori Language Commission to young people and parents making education choices at the start of a school year.
The Commission’s Chief Executive Ngahiwi Apanui says “not only in kōhanga reo but in most pre-schools children now get at least an introduction to the Māori language. Keeping this up through primary and secondary school will set children on a pathway to fluency in New Zealand’s own language.
“The Education Act Section 61 (3) ii requires each school to take reasonable steps to provide instruction in tikanga Māori (Maori culture) and te reo Māori (the Māori language) for full-time students whose parents ask for it.
“Parents should not hesitate to ask for their children’s right to learn the Māori language. Some schools will face greater challenges than others in recognising this right but parents should persist in ensuring their children do not miss out.
“I am concerned that too many children, are losing language they have acquired at kōhanga reo or in school. Every time this happens it’s a tragedy – not only because learning is lost but because potential further education is made more difficult and the revitalisation of the Māori language is slowed. Whānau, communities and education providers need to work together to address this.
“So our message is: take advantage of opportunities to learn Māori and keep at it. Ngahiwi Apanui also urged students entering tertiary education to consider Māori language as part of their degree.
“As more te reo Māori is used in business, politics and the wider New Zealand community it’s a real asset to be able to pronounce words correctly, exchange greetings and pick up the gist of what is being said. And for many, introductory exposure to te reo Māori will open up a door to a better understanding of New Zealand’s people and history – without even mentioning the opportunity to progress towards fluency.