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

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Systemic change

It has long been the case that there have been calls for the education system in Aotearoa/New Zealand to step up, but there are some fundamental steps that the Crown has failed to take—the major one being that the Treaty of Waitangi designed a relationship of rangatiratanga for Maori and kawanatanga for the Crown (see Chapter 2). Having established that the health of te reo Maori (Maori language) remains fragile at best, the Waitangi Tribunal (Waitangi Tribunal, 2010) turned to consider the Treaty interests and simply questioned whether the principles of the Treaty can ever be achieved if there is not a recognized place for the language of one of the partners to that Treaty. Simply put, there is a Crown obligation to take what steps are reasonable to assist in the preservation of te reo Maori. It must see Maori and te reo as not somehow external to itself, but a part of the society it represents—and thus a key influence over how society (through its institutions) conducts itself. Further, the Crown in 2010 endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (United Nations, 2007). The Waitangi Tribunal argued for adequate resources to be made available to implement policies so that there is no gap between the rhetoric (Maori language as officially recognized in law) and the reality (Maori language as marginalized in education). The Tribunal asserted: The Crown must therefore recognize that the Maori interest in the language is not the same as the interest of any minority group in New Zealand society in its own language. Accordingly, in decision-making about resource allocation, te reo Maori is entitled to a “reasonable degree of preference” and must receive a level of funding in accord with this status (Waitangi Tribunal, 2010, p. 52).

The perennial failure of Maori in the colonial education context creates societal stratifications, positioning Maori as deficit in a foreign knowledge system employing pedagogies of erosion and erasure—that is territoriali- zation. As territorialization disconnects languages, revernacularization of those languages provides a way of reconnecting Indigenous people with their stories, their identities and their cultures. Revernacularization of te reo Maori underpins decolonization and dehegemonizes our systems. It is this fundamental that drives the Maori bilingual/immersion movement and underpins Kaupapa Maori practice. Te reo Maori has been incorporated into municipal law. It is time to fully incorporate it into municipal practice. Whilst this may be implied in many of the government policies and strategies, the relationship of language to land, to cultural identities, to what it means to be a “New Zealander” has to be made explicit and more than implied. This has consequential implications for teachers and teacher education. It is asserted here that every teacher in Aotearoa, New Zealand must be able to speak the Indigenous Maori language. Anything else supports the ongoing colonial structures and puts te reo Maori at further risk in spite of the rhetoric.

 
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