18 Apr 2016

Taking NZ history into schools

3:01 pm on 18 April 2016

University of Auckland researcher Tamsin Hanly is looking to take her New Zealand history teaching resource to the Ministry of Education again after it turned her down for funding.

New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to teach so little about its own history, and teachers are afraid to educate in something they don't themselves understand, she says.

Tamsin Hanly

Tamsin Hanly holds two of the volumes from her teaching resource. Photo: RNZ/Dru Faulkner

Last week, Education Minister Hekia Parata refused to bow to a petition demanding the New Zealand wars should be compulsory teaching in schools, saying teachers had all the resources they needed.

Ms Hanly said she mortaged her house to research and produce the "critical guide to Māori and Pākehā histories of Aotearoa" while teaching at Newton Central Primary School in Auckland.

A lecturer at the University of Auckland, Ms Hanly explained she had written it to cover 200 years of accurate history from both a Pākehā and Māori viewpoint.

"It's like a beginner's guide for dummies, if you like, about Māori and Pākehā history that we didn't know - that I didn't know previously."

She said the Ministry of Education had refused to fund her project, as they did not fund writing for new resources anymore.

While Ms Hanly had not yet made contact with the Ministry about the finished product, it was a resource, intended for teachers, to provide a baseline of accurate information, she said.

"It still falls in line with the curriculum, but my challenge to the government, and to the country, is that most countries teach the history of their country and we're not."

"When I started off writing I was looking for ways to fund myself. So I went to the Ministry of Education three or four times, and their response was basically that they don't fund writing anymore, writing curriculum, and this was when they were cutting things like school journal. So basically they told me to go private."

She was spurred into the research when she left school at age 18 and realised she knew very little about Māori, Pākehā or the Treaty of Waitangi, she said.

She completed a Masters of Arts at University of Auckland and found that teachers were either doing no teaching on the New Zealand wars, or only a limited colonial history, which she said was inaccurate.

"Basically there are schools in this country right now that are going through no teaching of that sort of content ... and they're really desperate, they're desperate to do it."

The information was collected from official foundation history books, she said, by authors like James Belich and Michael King.

She said Newton Central School had been teaching from the resource for some time, and teachers and students alike had found it helpful to know not only the history of the country but also why it was relatively unknown.

"We're actually creating citizens who are more informed and able to participate in civic issues."

The books, which she called the CPR (Curriculum Programme Resource) could be applied to early childhood education, primary schools, and secondary schools, she said.

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