19 Aug 2015

Kohanga reo 'still marginalised'

8:07 pm on 19 August 2015

The Kohanga Reo National Trust says the Ministry of Education is still marginalising the movement by promoting other early learning options.

It has been nearly three years since the Waitangi Tribunal found the Crown prejudiced kohanga reo by imposing a funding regime that incentivises centres led by teachers.

Kohanga Reo National Trust HQ in Wellington.

Kohanga Reo National Trust HQ in Wellington Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Māori early childhood centres, known as puna reo, get more funding than kohanga reo because they are run by registered teachers rather than by whānau.

At least 50 percent of the staff that work with children in puna reo are qualified and registered teachers.

The maximum funding per hour per child for a whānau-led kohanga reo is $8.30 per hour, while the top rate per child per hour is $11.43 for all services led by a qualified teacher, including puna reo.

Tauranga-based Gate Pā School principal Richard Inder said there was a demand for an early learning centre that taught te reo Māori in the area.

He said he looked into opening a kohanga reo, but when the ministry suggested opening a puna reo, he saw it was a better fit.

Mr Inder said the puna model was very similar to the board of trustees model that Gate Pā School already operated under.

"It's self-managing and self-funding, and they only deal with one body, which is the ministry. We liked how autonomous it was."

Te Puna Reo o Pukehinahina opened on the Gate Pā School site in May.

Kohanga Reo National Trust co-chair Tina Olsen-Ratana said the funding regime clearly showed the government's intent to marginalise kohanga reo and discount it, and incentivise groups and people to puna reo.

"It was clearly found by the Waitangi Tribunal, and they are still doing it today."

But Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said puna reo complimented kohanga.

In a statement, she said Māori had a lower rate of taking part in early childhood education, so it was important that whanau had lots of options.

Ms Casey said services that were led by teachers, instead of whānau, allowed parents to engage with study or the workforce.

Busy Victoria University lecturer and mother Tabitha McKenzie said puna reo was a better fit for her two boys.

"The difference between for us was the time that we had to give to kohanga, in terms of helping out in different committees, attending whānau hui every month and helping out with lots of fund-raising.

"With puna reo we had to pay a bit more, but there wasn't a lot of extra time we had to put in."

Puna reo 'thriving'

There has been a total increase of 130 tamariki on puna reo rolls nationwide since 2010, and a drop of about 40 for kohanga reo during the same time.

At the start of term two, Mr Inder visited seven puna around the country as part of a principal's sabbatical and said the centres were building good reputations.

"They're all very well supported, thriving, with full rolls and waiting lists and parents who want this option for their kids."

He said it confirmed that he made the right option in choosing to open a puna reo.

Currently, there are a total of 468 early childhood education services that offer early learning in a Māori language immersion environment to more than 9300 children.

Puna reo make up 13 of those services, or about 3 percent. The other 97 percent of services offering a Māori immersion environment are kohanga reo, with 455 services.

The Kohanga Reo National Trust said both services had their place, but kohanga reo was the only model with the aim of preserving the Māori language, which was pivotal.

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