Rates of Māori stood down from school twice that of Pākeha students

8:09 am on 19 December 2022
Labour MP Jan Tinetti

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti acknowledges there are equity issues that need to be addressed. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Māori students are stood down from school as a punishment for bad behaviour almost twice as much as Pākeha students.

Official figures show the rate for Māori is almost five percent, compared to 2.5 percent for Pākeha.

Some experts say the only way to bring that down is for an education system that's based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

A stand-down allows a school to send someone home for up to five days for a total of 10 days in a year.

Some of the reasons include physical or verbal attacks on students and staff, along with continued disobedience and smoking.

In mainstream schools, the rate for Māori students remains stubbornly high while kura kaupapa figures from the Ministry of Education show this form of punishment is rarely used.

Rawiri Wright, from Te Rūnanganui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa, said mainstream education hasn't caught up with current times.

"Epistemology that underpins that system is exactly the same today as it was in 1860, it is based on Tikanga Pākēha and while that remains it's never going to serve Māori students very well," Wright said.

Stand-down rates are also higher in lower-decile schools.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Hoani Waititi principal Rawiri Wright

Rawiri Wright, from Te Rūnanganui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa. Photo: LINKEDIN

Decile one to six range between three to two percent while decile 10 only make up over half a percentage.

A 2018 study by Unicef ranked New Zealand as one of the. worst for classroom inequality.

The latest Child Poverty Monitor shows almost 18 percent of tamariki Māori live in poverty.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said there were equity issues that need to be addressed, but she warns it will take time.

"We have a larger number of Pasifika and Māori students who are in lower decile schools and we've already acknowledged as a system that we need to do something around biases that may exist within the system, again that's going to take a wee while to uncover that completely," Tinetti said.

The Ministry of Education is hoping its new initiative Te Hurihanganui will help.

It teaches about white privilege and the racism and the inequity Māori face.

But it's only a pilot in six communities so far, with the aim to help teachers understand what they need to change and why.

The national coordinator of Te Akatea, the Principal's Association, Therese Ford-Cartwright, said it's crucial for teachers to understand the inequities that can trigger the behaviour that results in students being stood down.

"There's a lot of evidence around this. They struggle to see themselves and be themselves within those contexts and that creates dissonance which often manifests itself in negative behaviour which often leads to stand-downs and suspensions," Ford-Cartwright said.

She wants a Te Tiriti o Waitangi-based curriculum introduced.

"We have to help the people that work within the system, the adults who work within the system, the teachers and the leaders to understand Māori theories and Māori ways of knowing and being because that hasn't been a requirement or expectation before now," Ford-Cartwright said.

But Rawiri Wright said elements of te ao Māori would only go so far in a system that's broken.

"It's only window dressing because the underlying philosophies of those schools remains the same. Until it is more indigenised until it is more a New Zealand framework rather than one which has come from overseas, it's never going to serve Māori or Pacific students very well," Wright said.

There is work underway to overhaul the school curriculum. The Education Ministry said the aim was to be more inclusive and to honour Te Tiriti obligations.