Māori education forum draws more than 1000 people

7:58 pm on 25 October 2022
Maori classroom.

The Nelson symposium aimed to discuss what success in the classroom looks like from a Māori point of view. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

More than 1000 people attended an education symposium hosted by iwi in Whakatū Nelson which aimed to inspire leaders to look at education with a Māori lens.

The event, called Kia wetewetea, ko Māui ahau! - which translates to 'Loosen me, for I am Māui' was hosted by eight iwi based at the top of the South Island in Nelson on Friday.

One of the speakers, Dr Melanie Riwai-Couch, said the big turnout showed the need for guidance and it was good to see iwi working together.

"The eight iwi that are spread across the top of the South Island have been working together to look at how they can help support places of learning to provide better education opportunities for Māori and for all students and also how they can support some changes that are happening with schools' curriculum including the Aotearoa New Zealand History Project.

"So this was an opportunity to get everyone together on scale to help share some messages and share about resources that were available in different ways that places of learning can be supported."

Places of learning could include schools, early childhood centres, early learning centres, kura reo and kura kaupapa, she said.

Dr Riwai-Couch said she had worked with different iwi over the years and each was clear about their aspirations and what they wanted to prioritise.

"But to have eight iwi work together so well in collaboration, while also still remaining their own unique identity, I just thought it was incredibly well crafted."

Each iwi had different experiences with the Crown and with each other which meant every iwi had its own unique history, she said.

"So there are some common elements that I think are shared [by all Māori], but it's also really important to recognise different iwi have their own mana, their own identity and you know they're the people who are looking after tikanga in their own spaces."

Dr Riwai-Couch has worked in the education sector for more than two decades and is also the mother of five children.

She said those factors underpinned the paper she gave at the symposium titled Niho Taniwha, improving teaching and learning for Ākonga Māori.

"Working in the sector for a long time, it became evident that people kind of knew there was a problem, that Māori students weren't getting a good deal out of education, but beyond kind of identifying it and setting the goal to improve it, a lot of teachers and school leaders were really struggling to know how to do that."

Niho Taniwha provided a pedagogical model and framework, or a model of the way that children learn, that schools and principals could use to help improve their practice, she said.

"To have a better idea of what good looks like, to know how to assess where they're at, to know where to go for help and to inform some good practices about how to figure that out working with their local iwi as well."

It was possible for anyone to develop "cultural competence" and you did not have to be Māori to do so, she said.

"The reality is most Māori children are being taught most of the time by people who aren't Māori and so having an awareness of who Māori people are ... what works for Māori learners, understanding that there are educational frameworks that can be used that we know are successful."

Understanding some of these factors gave people more of an insight into how to be a good teacher for Māori students, she said.

"I really believe that teachers, school leaders, leaders in early learning want to do a really good job and now the challenge is helping people to understand what that actually looks like."

The eight iwi presented resources they have been developing and Riwai-Couch said they were well researched, well-informed and very usable.

The resources will be rolled out by the various iwi to the schools and places of learning in line with their own schedule, she said.

"What a wonderful blessing it will be to those centres to have that clarity that these are the stories, these are the people, these are the events that are important to iwi and that that means they can have an assurity that what they're working on is what's actually wanted."

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