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Ministry of Education.

The Māori education experience

Sir Sidney and Lady June Mead describe their early teaching experiences and why there is a need for programmes like He Kākano. They observe that while there have been areas of improvement there are still issues related to Māori education that seem resistant to change.


We've been involved in education and in teaching for several decades. And in fact for a long long time. And so over the years we have observed how things have developed for our people. We started off in the Māori service, the Māori School Service, that is where we did our teaching. And working with Māori communities in back block areas that required a couple to be appointed to such schools. So, we served in the Urewera, and we served in Hawkes Bay and then in Waikato and we believe we have done our iwi service. We understand iwi, we understand the education or needs of the people. We understand the difficulties that rural communities face in getting their kids up to scratch. And through time we've moved up from primary schools, the secondary schools and then to universities. So we've seen the whole spectrum really of our education system in action. I think what is first of all disappointing for us is that many of the problems that existed 30 or 40 years ago are still there.

And on the other hand what is satisfying for us is the fact that there has been some movement. The teaching of Te Reo Māori for instance is a totally different area of activity now than it was when we were teaching. When it was deemed to be illegal to be teaching Te Reo Māori in Māori schools. It was how things were regarded in our time. But all of that has changed, there is a positive attitude towards the Reo. Lots of schools teach it. Secondary schools around the country all offer it. And certainly all universities and tertiary institutions are doing something about Te Reo Māori, Māori culture generally, and some of the customs of the people that in our time again were held to be not appropriate in the whole of the education system, including universities.

So while a lot has changed for the better, there is still the problem of getting Māori students up to scratch and improving their success rates and also their retention rates at our secondary schools. And it seems to me that a lot of the problems do seem to be at the secondary school level.

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