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Home arrow Education arrow Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation

The Treaty in Education

Imperialism, through its colonial outpost here in Aotearoa (Smith, 2012), was anchored in Aotearoa via the Treaty but, as has previously been argued, was swiftly dishonored (Mikaere, 2011; Mutu, 2010). Powerful mythologizing discourses then took hold (Ballara, 1986; Bevan-Smith, 2010, 2012). As Ballara (1986) succinctly put it, “In the end, in spite of the treaty, it was to be the concept of the wandering savage who had no rights to land that was adopted and recognized by the settler governments once self-government was attained” (p. 36). Educational pathways were mapped out for Maori in a context of contempt. The touchstone of whitestream education policy was established by Clarence Beeby in 1938, reflected in a statement prepared for Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser, in which he wrote: “Every person, whatever his level of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right, as a citizen, to a free education of the kind for which he is best fitted, and to the fullest extent of his powers” (Alcorn, 1999). It was the touchstone as education became free, secular, and compulsory, and with narrowly defined assimilatory aims for Maori it was little more than a factory conveyor belt to domesticated subservience as it was determined “he [Maori] was best fitted.”

In recent years Maori have been positioned as a “priority” group throughout government policy (Ministry of Education, 2008, 2012). This is both nonsense and misleading. It is nonsense because it is mere rhetoric (nothing changes), and misleading because it hoodwinks both Maori and Pakeha into thinking that their appearance in policy fosters the idea that Maori, as a “priority group” are accorded special “privileges” when in fact the reality is Maori struggle for linguistic, social, cultural, and spiritual survival. The following section looks at how Kohanga Reo have been captured systemically through discourses of “quality,” evaluation, and review, and the exigencies of the regulatory framework. It overviews the steady decline of these centers first documented by Skerrett-White (2001), Skerrett (2010), and more recently in the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal (2012).

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