There are many tensions between the New Zealand Curriculum document and indigenous educational philosophies. In culturally responsive teaching, three concepts of importance are:
· Māori succeeding as Māori (and Pasifika succeeding as Pasifika)
These three aspects link to the 21st C skills of:
· Knowledge construction
· Real-world problem-solving and innovation
· Skilled communication
There is overwhelming agreement that recognition and implementation of culturally-based methods of teaching and learning (Berryman 2014, Thaman 2003, Chu et al 2013) provide an effective learning context for all students. Differentiating the learning to effectively include all cultures is an expectation within the New Zealand Curriculum and is expressed within the principles. “The curriculum reflects New Zealand’s cultural diversity and values the histories and traditions of all its people.” “…it ensures that students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and that their learning needs are addressed.” (Ministry of Education 2007, p9) That this expectation is often not met, results in the ineffectual learning and high failure rates of Maori and Pasifika students. (Thaman 2016)
‘Ako’ is a formative concept in indigenous education (both Māori and Pasifika) and formal recognition of this concept within our school champions the following methods of teaching:
· Reciprocal learning centred relationships between teacher and student linking to the 21st C learning skill of collaboration. The project based learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) focus in my class supports this aspect of ako in my current class.
· Whakawhanaungatanga (building strong relationships) is a key factor supporting indigenous students.
· Whanau: learner and whanau cannot be separated. This is an important aspect. In my experience, it can be the most difficult barrier for a pakeha teacher to cross.
(Macfarlane, 2009) proposes that to develop an effective
partnership between educators and whanau, consideration must be given to both
recognition of the balance of power and consideration of the effective
empowerment of whanau in determining educational outcomes for their children. When these outcomes differ from the outcomes
prescribed by the Ministry of Education, there must be a compromise. Russel Bishop in his discussion of educational
disparities in NZ education suggests that agentic teachers who can weave
together a context which allows indigenous students to bring themselves
authentically to the learning conversation are the key to educational success. This
skill of self-regulation, initially as
cultural self-regulation later as individual self-regulation is seen within a
primary context when the language and culture of a race are loudly and proudly
At Koraunui we are fortunate to have a staff who journey together to develop positive outcomes for all students. For many of us, this has meant significant hours of professional development, learning new languages, new tikanga and opening our eyes and ears to the history of our country that is not taught. The history of oppression and colonisation and the lingering effects or debts that have been the result of this.
For Māori to succeed as Māori we need to address the concept of cultural deficit theory. This is a model in which the failure of indigenous students to succeed within a westernised education system is attributed to social characteristics rooted in their cultures and communities. Stewart (2016) suggests that under this model, teachers hold low expectations of success for their students and this results in poor student achievement. He describes deficit theory as a “barrier to a culturally responsive pedagogy.”
Change is slow. Small steps make a difference. Using the home language of a student, pronouncing their name correctly, acknowledging and accepting their culture and celebrating their stories, songs and art are all ways to develop ourselves as agentic teachers.
Toi tu te kupu, toi tu te mana, toi tu te whenua
Berryman, M. S. ((2014, 4:2).). Culturally responsive methodologies at work in educatio settings. International Journal for Researcher Development,, 102-116.
Bishop, R. (2010). Changing power relations in education: Kaupapa Māori messages for 'mainstream' education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Comparitive Education 39: 2, 221-238.
Chu, C. S. (2013). Educational practices that benefit Pacific Learners in Tertiary Education. Wellington: National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.
Education, M. o. (2007). New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.
Macfarlane, S. (2009). Te Pikinga ki runga: Raising Possibilities. Set (2), 42-45.
Stewart, G. (2016). Indigenous Knowledge and education policy for teachers of Maori Learners. Knowledge Cultures 4:3, 84- 92.
Thaman, K. (2003 15:1). Decolonising Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, knowledge and wisdom in higher education. The Contemporary Pacific, 1-5.
Thaman, K. (2016, December 6). Culture Matters in teaching and learning. . (K. Thaman, Performer) Aronui Lecture Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand.
Thaman, K. H. (2003). Culture, teaching and learning in Oceania. In K. Thaman, Educational ideas from Oceania (pp. 3-12). Suva: University of the South Pacific.