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Before Five policy statement

The policy statement Before Five, issued in December 1988, by the government reneged on earlier promises of equity in the Meade Report. It opted for an independent reviewing regime, from an essentially “developmental” epistemological frame, as well as assuring a compliance regime in a regulatory structure (Waitangi Tribunal, 2012) from an English-oriented ontological frame. The developmental frame was based on the arbiters of “correct” or “normal” development and colonizing theories of child development. The ontological frame forced the TKR movement into compliance where Pakeha norms and behaviors became the benchmark.

Since the early heady days of Kohanga Reo expansion from 1982 to 1992 when approximately 850 Kohanga Reo came into being, the challenges for bilingual provision intensified. The glaringly obvious policy gaps have led to predictable outcomes. Of the shift of TKR from Maori Affairs to the Ministry of Education in 1989, it was argued: “While many working in the early childhood sector hailed the Before Five reforms, many working in TKR felt a sense of foreboding” (cited in Skerrett- White, 2001, p. 16). Early on in the establishment of TKR, Te Rangihau, a much esteemed Maori elder, warned:

We have come a long way in a very short time with Te Koohanga5 Reo and already I am seeing the signs of professionals in many fields homing in to take advantage of those aspects that can be documented for personal gain or for political purpose. If this trend was to continue and we were to take this to its extreme conclusion, my fear is that we would no longer have a people’s movement, let alone a Maaori people’s movement. (Te TKR Trust Incorporated, 1984, cited in Skerrett-White, 2001)

Wider iwi Maori (tribal groupings) were gravely concerned. Political developments in the intervening years have proven those concerns predictably well founded.

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