Te Whatu Pōkeka (English)
This resource aims to stimulate debate and to encourage people to share their experiences and views on the ideas, suggestions, and practices within it. It is hoped that kaupapa Māori early childhood services will then be able to validate, share, and build on the values, philosophies, and practices related to assessment based on kaupapa Māori.
Pākōwhai Te Kōhanga Reo
Kei te ora, kei te whakatipu te tamaiti kei waenganui i tōna ake whānau
A child lives and grows within the context of a family or a community
Twenty years ago we, as a community, as a whānau, were approached by a representative of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust to consider establishing a kōhanga reo for our babies, our tamariki, and our mokopuna. Right from the start, this service was never perceived as being simply another early childhood service. We have always understood our kōhanga reo to be a vehicle, an opportunity for a community, a hapū, to realise our dreams and aspirations. It was those who were regarded as the leaders in our community, our parents and grandparents, who gave the OK for the kōhanga reo to be established. But it was the young and mostly new parents who were given the task of germinating the seed and then nurturing it to ensure its healthy growth and fruition. That focus on achieving the dreams and aspirations of a people in an all-encompassing, holistic way has remained the driving force of our whānau at Pākōwhai Te Kōhanga Reo.
The journey forward from twenty years ago has been achieved by allowing the true richness of whānau to be a living, breathing reality on a twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week basis. This journey has embraced the past, taken lessons from it and brought these lessons into the day-to-day life of not only the kōhanga reo, but also of the whānau. To achieve this we have taken the time and made the effort to reflect continuously on the good times and on the bad, on our successes and on our failures.
It is important to understand what whānau is really about when one is considering the gravity and the huge importance of our journey. For many the harakeke, the flax bush, has become the symbol of the whānau. In the midst of the harakeke is the rito, or baby shoot, the future of the flax bush. This rito is surrounded by a mass of individual yet strongly connected rau or flax leaves. The rito is nurtured and protected by the surrounding leaves as the whānau nurtures and protects its young. Every individual within a whānau has a contribution to make to the well-being of the whole.
Whānau is also a place where the concept of whāngai is realised. Whāngai is about nourishment and nurturing. Within the whānau, the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual welfare of the individual is nurtured, and with this nurturing the well-being of the whānau is ensured. The individual is nurtured and nourished according to their perceived and understood needs. The kaiwhāngai, or those who provide the nurturing, endeavour to be responsive to these recognised needs.
Our views about assessment
During our journey we realised that a key part of the process included a focus on reflection, identifying needs that were evident and not so evident. Through this we learnt that we were in fact practitioners of assessment. With this insight, we as a whānau became involved with the Kei Tua o te Pae: Assessment for Learning Early Childhood Exemplars Project, and then we developed an in-depth involvement with the Kaupapa Māori Learning and Assessment Exemplar Project. We draw on our strengths and learning to continue to build assessment processes that will help us to better meet the needs of our tamariki and mokopuna. We have slowly developed and allowed ourselves to evolve our unique assessment practice.
At the start of our journey with the kaupapa Māori assessment project, we thought that the workload of assessing and recording children’s mahi would be more of a chore and added work on top of our already busy daily workload. However once we were under way with the project our whakaaro changed.
A primary caregiver is assigned to each tamaiti in our kōhanga reo. This caregiver is the first point of contact for mātua or whānau who want to know anything about their child when they are here at kōhanga reo. The child’s mahi and learning are recorded in their profile book. Through this recording, we are the eyes and ears for the parents and the whānau.
After many years of documenting children’s profiles, kaimahi recognise their own growth and learning about assessment, and about the process of documenting information about assessment. The profile books of our tamariki have become, therefore, an assessment tool for our learning as adults.
We continue to strive to provide our tamariki and our mokopuna with the best we can offer. Our practice and our assessment methodology therefore do not only represent our aspirations for our tamariki. They are also expressions of our growing understanding of ourselves and of our tamariki, and of the process of ako, or mutual learning and growth.
This has been a journey of learning, growth, and development for us all and it continues to be a journey that encompasses not only what happens on a day-to-day basis at kōhanga, but also our lives and experiences in the wider community.