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



That the Waitangi Tribunal (2012) Report found the New Zealand Ministry of Education in breach was not surprising to many of us involved in the Kohanga Reo movement. It is a common theme of this book that the imperialistic imperatives of colonization disrupt the histories, stories, and lives of Indigenous peoples. Imperialism is an ongoing project and as Linda Smith puts it, it still hurts, it is destructive, and it is constantly reforming itself. It is constantly territorializing. So the latest 2012 Tribunal findings are nothing new. I restate we Maori are all the time trying to fit a white- frame that simply does not work. We must continue the struggle to work within our Maori Indigenous frames of reference. That is we must take control of what is ours, our tino rangatiratanga. I have argued elsewhere that tino rangatiratanga is all the more important because of globalization and its neoliberal reforms, as it is an ability to critically mediate the way the world enters into our minds, bodies, and daily lives; that is, to make sense and meaning of the world at the individual level and at the cultural level, and reconciled from a position that is Maori. It is self-identification and definition at the personal level and self-determination culturally. It is an ability to think critically and respond collectively in order to mediate external influences and the rate of change that impacts upon our lives and resources (Skerrett-White, 2003).

The chapter The Rise and Decline of te Kohanga Reo: The Impact of Government Policy (Skerrett-White, 2001) overviews the rapid expansion of the TKR movement within its first ten years of establishment. Maori leaders proposed that iwi Maori should start teaching the very young to bridge the language gap between the ageing native-speaking elders and the very young that had occurred as a result of colonization and the subtractive assimilatory policies of the education sector. The excitement of those times in hearing young children speaking te reo Maori further galvanized the Maori people into action and fuelled the movement, building on that early success. However, that rapid expansion was shortlived. In just under a decade the movement was shifted to the “education” portfolio and fully into the whitestream system. It was like our Maori stream was polluted when subjected to a host of educational reform and regulation that compromised its sustainability. That was predictable and predicted by many working in the Kohanga Reo field. The Ka Hikitia strategy, which is meant to be about the system stepping up, continues to take giant leaps backward. That said, the urgency around a collaborative teacher/iwi Maori commitment to making a difference, to adopting a pedagogy of vigilance, provides us all with a radical hope for the future. Through kaupapa Maori pedagogy it is argued that the Maori Indigenous narratives, ways of thinking and being, disrupt and unravel the dominant discourses that seek to domesticate children. They trouble the myths. They release the trauma of cognitive dissonance. Counter-colonial discourses through renarrativization provide the critique to dehegemonize the system. They help to resist and critique the myth making that has shrouded our cultural archive. It was argued that the success of Kohanga Reo and the whole of the Maori-medium sector provide the evidence of the powerful force indigenous language revitalization is. Therefore the incorporation of te reo Maori fully into the core curriculum is the next step up for the system. Until that happens, the Crown through its administration will continue to be in Treaty breach mode.

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