In a webinar, Janelle Riki-Waaka explores what Māori achieving success as Māori means from a Māori worldview, and how teachers and schools can consider how well their environments and practices support ākonga Māori to succeed and thrive.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides an ideal framework for promoting the success of ākonga Māori as Māori in schools. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is, at its essence, about honourable, equitable partnership: it is an agreement to co-exist peacefully while each party retains its language, culture, and identity. While the history of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand breached Te Tiriti with devastating impacts on Maori language, culture, and identity, schools can deeply reflect the intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by enacting the articles of:
- Kawanatanga (honourable governance), by giving Māori a voice in all aspects of governance through genuine engagement and involvement in decision making.
- Rangatiratanga (self-determination), by acknowledging the rights of Māori to have agency, voice, and choice in what happens in schools.
- Ōritetanga (equity), by co-designing for equity. This means engaging with whānau Māori to design plans, programmes, and environments, rather than merely inviting them to consult on existing plans and ideas.
It is important for schools to be sites of and agents for decolonisation, because they were historically used as a tool of colonisation by settlers. The process of decolonisation needs to be led by non-Māori, as many Māori still experience language and identity trauma as a result of their own experiences at school. The education system was historically used to channel Māori into jobs such as farming, factory work, and domestic labour, and remnants of these policies persist in some ways of thinking within education, so an essential first step is for non-Māori to deliberately acknowledge and address their own bias. It is often difficult to see bias that does not impact us directly, so this requires a conscious process of ‘bias-hunting’. Colonisation also involved the deliberate assimilation of Māori culture into the settler culture, and Māori are still a marginalised, minority culture, so decolonisation in schools involves prioritising and valuing te ao Māori, te reo Māori, and tikanga Māori. In this way, schools can help to empower tamariki Māori to become re-indigenised into their language, culture, and identity.
Māori achieving success as Māori means strengthening their connections to their language, culture, and identity. It should not be conceptualised merely in terms of academic achievement, such as demonstrating that ākonga Māori are outperforming national averages in reading, writing, and maths. Rather, schools should ask how strong the connection of ākonga Māori is to their language, culture, and identity, and how well they have supported that connection or reconnection. One way to measure this is to write ‘success stories’ in the place of reports, and to include children in writing their own success stories. Schools should also reflect both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā, in order to support and empower tamariki and rangatahi Māori to traverse and thrive in both worlds.
Genuine and authentic engagement with whānau Māori and mana whenua will look different for all kura, but there are certain key principles that should be observed. Firstly, it important to give whānau Māori agency over how to engage by asking them where, when, and how often they would like to meet, and what they would like to discuss. Be prepared to invest plenty of time in whakawhanaungatanga and relationship building, and ask whānau about their aspirations for their children. In terms of engaging with mana whenua, many schools make the mistake of starting the relationship by asking for something. It is important to start instead by introducing yourself and the school, and offering service. As with whānau Māori, begin by establishing, developing, and nurturing the relationship between the school and mana whenua.