6 Aug 2011

Pioneering professor honoured for teaching excellence

7:31 am on 6 August 2011

A University of Auckland professor has been given a Supreme Award for teaching excellence for his attempts to reverse Maori and Pacific underachievement rates.

Professor Michael Walker, who is of Te Whakatohea descent, teaches at the university's School of Biological Sciences.

He created the Tuakana Programme more than 20 years ago to encourage Maori and Pacific Island students to stay at university.

The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence says Professor Walker's work is pioneering and has transformed the lives of thousand of students.

It says he brings Maori perspectives, tikanga and te reo into his research and teaching, and encouraged a steady stream of Maori and Pacific students to get degrees and in some cases PhDs.

Professor Walker says the next generation need to be encouraged to be diligent in their studies.

"The Maori and Pacific populations are the only young populations we have as our society ages, so these people then become very, very important to the social and economic future of the nation.

"We will need to ensure that they are in positions to get sufficient education to be able to take significant leadership roles in their families, the community and society at large."