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Ministry of Education.

Contexts for learning

Dr Mere Berryman describes how the experiences of schools involved in Te Kotahitanga have informed the He Kākano model and of the opportunity this initiative provides to empower school leaders to develop contexts for learning that support and raise Māori student achievement.


I think what’s been important for us, in terms of learning from Te Kotahitanga, is that we can actually effect change for Māori students, in terms of their participation and achievement, by changing what happens inside classrooms. So, if we change the interactions and the relationships that Māori students have with their teachers, we can effect improvements for Māori students’ participation, for their achievement.

However, we originally thought that if we change the pedagogy in classrooms, that will have an impact upon leadership and leaders will then start ensuring that the institutions inside schools are able to also change, so that the pedagogy will become even more effective. We found that in some of the schools, that happened. The leadership in schools was responsive. I think we began to see schools making maximum difference for Māori students. However, it didn’t happen automatically. So I guess what we’ve got an opportunity to do in He Kākano is to work with the leaders, in order to be quite strategic about what it is they have to do, in order to create contexts in their schools that will allow teachers to teach in ways that will support and raise Māori student achievement.

It is a very humbling experience to be working with a group of really committed people. Working to support Māori student engagement is a real challenge, it’s been a challenge in our education system for years. So, here are people in very, very busy work environments prepared to stand up and come out of their schools in order to be able to work with us to maximise the good things that they are already doing. So, these opportunities, I think, are really important for us because we’re getting an opportunity to hear what they’re doing, to hear what’s going well, to hear what’s not going well, and when I say ‘we’, I mean each and every one of us because when you get principals or school leaders like we are here, they’re learning from each other all the time. We don’t have all the answers, we’re clear about that, but I bet that there have been some answers in that room, coming from within the schools, that will allow each of us to move forward in this journey.

I think the thing for me that is really important is the huge commitment that they bring to the kaupapa of He Kākano, they are there because they are serious about making a difference for their Māori students.

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