14 Jul 2014

Te Reo shaping as election issue

8:35 pm on 14 July 2014

The future of Te Reo Rangatira is shaping up as an election issue for some Maori political candidates.

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Photo: RNZ

While constituents agree it needs to be treasured, one of the biggest debates is about whether to make the language compulsory in schools.

Peeni Henare, the Labour Party candidate for Tamaki-Makaurau, said there had been more talk about Te Reo Maori during this election campaign.

Mr Henare supported the language becoming an essential part of the curriculum.

His opinion is drawn from his time as a student in a mainstream school, Whangarei Boys' High, where the principal made juniors learn Te Reo; pupils left school richer for the experience, he said.

The Maori Party is campaigning on its Te Mataawai strategy, which will put the governance of Crown-run Te Reo agencies in the hands of iwi leaders.

It's a policy the party's candidate for Hauraki-Waikato, Susan Cullen, is confidently pushing.

However, she said tangata whenua were split on whether students should be made to learn Maori.

In the context of teaching, the word compulsory is too strong, and Te Reo lessons should be a fixture in schools, just like maths or social sciences.

Massey University Maori language lecturer Hone Morris questioned why Te Reo needed to be compulsory in schools for those who did not want to learn it.

People would be threatened by the introduction of compulsory lessons, and people would turn their backs on Te Reo Maori if they were forced to learn it, he said.