Vincent Olsen-Reeder

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Summer 20205 Feb 2020

Compulsory te reo in schools – what does it look like? / Ko te whakapūmau i te reo ki te kura – ka pēhea hoki?

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

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