10 Apr 2016

NZ Land Wars not compulsory learning - Minister

10:19 am on 10 April 2016

It should not be compulsory for the history of the land wars to be taught in schools, Education Minister Hekia Parata says, because "it is not the New Zealand way".

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of a petition in 2015 to have the Land Wars recognised.

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of a petition in 2015 to have the Land Wars recognised. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Māori MPs were last month urged to back a petition calling for a national day to commemorate the New Zealand land wars, and support the history of the wars being taught to students.

An estimated 1 million hectares of land was taken by the Crown in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Almost 3000 people, most of them Māori, died in the conflicts between government forces and Māori.

The petition attracted 12,000 signatures, but the Ministry of Education responded by said that schools already had the tools they needed.

Today Education Minister Hekia Parata, speaking to RNZ's Māori issues correspondent Mihingarangi Forbes on TV3's The Hui - maintained that position.

She indicated parents should instead join a school's board of trustees if they had an issue with what their children were being taught.

"I'm not going to make it compulsory ... that is not the New Zealand way, we do not compel specific things, I'm not requiring every school to teach (computer) coding even though there is a community who wants that.

"What has to happen is the schools, with their parents, make those decisions," she told the programme.

Ms Parata said New Zealand had a world class curriculum that, for 28 years, had not said what a school must actually teach.

Instead, that decision was left to parents and whānau.

"We have a very high trust education system and what we're trying to encourage schools to do is to teach local stories.

"So whether it's in history, or science or maths - choose examples that are meaningful and relevant for kids that they can see in their local environment," she said.

Ms Parata agreed this meant students should talk to mana whenua to learn about their history, but acknowledged more could be done.

"It isn't as widespread yet as I would like it to be ... but we have the same calls for financial literacy, for coding.

"I think a rich programme of who we are, where we came from, who settled Otorohanga or Ruatōria or where ever is an important part of education.

"We don't enforce it because we don't have compulsion ... we encourage our schools to make choices," she said.

Ms Parata said it was school boards and principals that made those choices.

"Every board election time we encourage parents to run for their board because in our system the boards absolutely can be very clear with their principal about what they want to see being taught."

Ms Parata said she agreed the history was rich and important for schools to deliver, but it was impossible to tell which schools were not delivering because the topics they taught were not surveyed.

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  • Land Wars petition goes to Parliament