About Māori-medium education

Māori-medium education has been, and continues to be, strongly community driven.

The Māori-medium education sector was established to ensure te reo Māori and Māori culture survived. Formal Māori-medium schooling is very young and in a developmental phase. It began less than thirty years ago and is still building its research and evidence base.

How Māori-medium education came about

The Māori-medium education sector grew from Māori communities determined to maintain and nurture a living language and to support cultural knowledge being transferred between generations.

The first kōhanga reo opened in Wainuiomata, near Wellington, in 1981. The first kura Kaupapa Māori opened in 1985 at Hoani Waititi Marae. From these beginnings, a broad network of Māori-medium schools has developed. They all began as Māori community initiatives.

The Court of Appeal decision, confirming that te reo Māori was a taonga (treasure) as understood in the Treaty of Waitangi, gave a tremendous boost to Māori-medium education. More public schools began to offer te reo Māori as a subject and eventually Māori immersion and bilingual units were developed. These initiatives reflected the expectations and vision of whānau, iwi, communities and educators.

What kaupapa Māori education means

Kaupapa Māori education in Aotearoa means:

  • Māori education that incorporates a Māori world view
  • ways of teaching in a range of settings, including bilingual and immersion settings (English and Māori).

Māori-medium education is teaching:

  • that significantly uses te reo Māori
  • curriculum subjects in te reo Māori only, or in both te reo Māori and English.

Māori language education is available from early childhood education in kōhanga reo through to tertiary level in wānanga.

Types of Māori-medium schooling

Kōhanga reo

Te kōhanga reo is a Māori development initiative. It’s aimed at maintaining and strengthening Māori language and philosophies within a cultural framework. It was inspired by Māori elders in 1982. Te kōhanga reo is a total immersion Māori language whānau programme for young children from birth to six-years-old.

Kura kaupapa Māori and Kura Motuhake

The philosophy underpinning the approach within a school, classroom or unit also varies.

Some schools operate as kura kaupapa Māori and are aligned to Te Rūnanganui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori (TRN) and follow Te Aho Matua philosophy. Other schools are formally aligned to local iwi (Kura Motuhake). Classes and units can also operate in isolation of iwi and be included in an English-medium school in diverse settings.

Māori immersion and bilingual settings

Māori immersion and bilingual settings are diverse and include:

  • immersion schools
  • immersion and bilingual units
  • classes attached to English-medium schools – at least fifty per cent taught in te reo Māori.

Links to communities and iwi

Māori-medium education is closely tied to a local Māori community or iwi. This supports Māori as a living culture. There is a high expectation that kura graduates will have strong connections to their culture, language and identity and be successful in te ao Māori and internationally.

Māori-medium education initiatives are explicitly linked to communities and iwi are successful because:

  • partnerships ensure successful implementation and sustainable system-wide shifts and changes in the sector’s professional knowledge and practice
  • Māori whānau and communities are central to Māori-medium education so communities must understand the benefits of all initiatives to their children
  • each community and whānau is unique. Therefore all Māori-medium initiatives must be adaptable so they can suit the variety of Māori-medium settings, their whānau and communities
  • this responsive and cooperative development benefits whānau and community as they share ownership and responsibility for Ngā Whanaketanga

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