There’s a whole lot of great teaching going on: we need more! That’s the principal finding of an evaluation of te reo Māori in English-medium schools for the Māori Language Commission by research firm Haemata. It says English-medium schools are making a critical contribution to the revitalisation of Māori language, particularly in terms of recognising and valuing te reo Māori as a key part of our national identity.

The Māori Language Commission Chief Executive Ngahiwi Apanui says the result underlines the incredible value of teachers and teaching, finding that schools with strong programmes are led by strong leaders who actively value Māori language and its contribution to the school and the wider community.

“The research shows that English-medium teachers in the participating schools displayed positive attitudes towards Māori language, and a critical awareness of the need to value the language.

“It was heartening to see the understanding of Māori language as a support for wider educational success. Māori language is seen as a lever for strengthening Māori students’ identity and the foundation for Maori students succeeding as Maori.

“The report also confirms challenges that a Māori language programme is often dependent on the availability of a sole teacher in charge of Māori language in the school, making the future of the courses fragile. There is also concern about the ability of English-medium primary schools to deliver programmes beyond Level 1 or Level 2 of the curriculum is being severely limited by the Māori language proficiency of teachers and their knowledge of second language teaching. Status and critical awareness in education are not enough. We need to reinforce the role of schools in helping children acquire and use the Māori language, and to give them the ability to use it in all circumstances.

“Since the research was done we have seen further investment through Budget 2019.  As the proverb says: Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu’: a bird needs feathers to fly with – and Māori language needs continued investment both of money and commitments of skilled and devoted teachers, of school boards and of parents. Three recommendations are being actively considered by the Commission:

  1. develop and implement a budgeted communication and promotion planto increase the awareness of English-medium schools about the vital role they can play in the revitalisation of Māori language.
  2. develop and implement a budgeted cross-agency action plan to support primary schools to teach beyond Levels 1-2 of the Māori language curriculum guidelines, Te Aho Arataki Marau mō te Ako i te Reo Māori. 
  3. collaborate with the Ministry of Education, and other agencies and providers, to review the Māori language curriculum guidelines for English-medium schools (Te Aho Arataki Marau mō te Ako i te Reo Māori) and the national qualifications for te reo Māori – to ensure their currency and fitness for purpose.