Ah, compulsory te reo Māori in mainstream schools. It’s a grazing table for politician-elects and a fear-inducing topic for overworked teachers. It’s been on the cards since 1972, when 33,000 people signed a petition approaching Government on the topic, but so far, it’s been a fruit too high to harvest. Compulsion for me isn’t about language, but citizenship. We’re a country at a standstill on unified progression and, in my view, that standstill is caused by the ignorance that there’s only one single way to live a life. Ignorance leads to fear and scaremongering. The last decade or so has seen legislation questionably enacted, racism in schools and the New Zealand Police brought to light, prejudice in the legal system exposed and some pretty shocking behaviour from incoming local politicians. All these things leave just one thought in my head: if we’re going to fix what is broken, every individual in this country must be able to exercise great citizenship in their decision-making. We need to extinguish individual ignorance before it enters an institution capable of harm. To me, language compulsion seems one crucial way to ensure everyone gets some basic level of mutual communicative understanding, as well as the linguistic
Kia ora koutou. It is great to have the opportunity to contribute to Ako. I am really pleased that this issue is focussed on language, as it is top of mind for me. As I write, I am transitioning into the role of President after being a teacher at Ross Intermediate. During 2019, I helped lead the development of our local curriculum, and the downside to my new role is that I won’t be there to help with the implementation of it – but I back our team at school. Language became a central concept as we went through our process. We asked all the big questions – what is a curriculum, what should tamariki be learning, what is the role of parents, what is our role in preparing ākonga for high school? – and after all that, we agreed that a local curriculum needs to put ākonga at the centre. By this, we didn’t mean generic ākonga – I’m not sure if those even exist. What we meant is that we had to develop a curriculum to meet the needs of every ākonga we are lucky enough to have come through our door. This required us to start from
More than a quarter of New Zealand schools have fewer than 100 students. They are often rural and remote, with minimal infrastructure and fragile economies. For teachers in these places, the challenges are high. How can they provide a rich, varied curriculum with only one or two teachers? How can their students gain meaningful connections with the wider world and overcome their isolation? Ako spoke with teachers who are grappling with these questions and finding solutions through online communities.