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


Shifting the “whitestream”

Enrollments in Kohanga Reo have declined markedly over the past 15 years (Waitangi Tribunal, 2010). In 2011, 21 percent (8,916 Maori children) of Maori enrollments in early childhood care and education (ECCE) services were in Kohanga Reo (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2011). This means two things for the ECCE sector. Firstly, urgent steps need to be taken towards strengthening the provision within nga Kohanga Reo through increasing the numbers of qualified teachers who are fluent in te reo Maori (Waitangi Tribunal, 2010). Secondly, there is surely a huge expectation that the rest of the sector, where the remaining 79 percent of Maori children attend, take very seriously the need to deepen the currently uneven delivery of te reo and te ao Maori (Maori language and worldviews). This mandate not only comes from Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations and the expectations of Te Whariki but is also the aspiration of whanau Maori (Maori families) for their children’s education (Dixon, Widdowson, Meagher-Lundberg, McMurchy-Pilkington, & McMurchy- Pilkington, 2007; Robertson, Gunn, Lanumata, & Pryor, 2007).

Currently only 9.1 percent of the total of 20,644 teachers in the early childhood education (ECE) workforce are Maori (Ministry of Education, 2012a). Whilst 24 percent of Maori reported in the previous population census that they were speakers of the Maori language, only 1.6 percent of Pakeha (those of European ancestry) responded that they could speak Maori (Statistics New Zealand. Tatauranga Aotearoa, 2010). High-quality models of language are required for language learning, rather than token, minimal, limited amounts. As a research participant made clear:

Teachers and children need to be using dialogue to work with each other—co-constructing. In order to reflect this, we need to provide environments rich in Maori language. We need proficient speaking Maori teachers! Regurgitating learnt phrases will not provide the opportunities for children to really conscientise their experiences, that is, thinking in Maori. Only a very high level of exposure in Maori will do that. (previously unpublished data from the Whakawhanaungatanga study, Ritchie & Rau, 2006)

Pre-service teacher education has an important role to play in shifting the expectations and competencies of beginning teachers to a higher level of (bi)cultural competency, which raises question-marks about current New Zealand government policy to shift primary and secondary teacher education programs from the current situation of predominately three-year bachelors’ degrees, to one-year post-graduate level courses, without requiring that the pre-requisite under-graduate program specializes in education, or te reo Maori. Whilst the scope of three-year programs of initial teacher education may not be long enough to develop in graduates a high degree of proficiency in the Maori language, it is long enough to foster an understanding of, and commitment to, the key professional responsibilities outlined in Te Whariki, Ka Hikitia, and other ministry documents, in relation to the expectation to deliver high- quality (culturally responsive) Tiriti-based ECCE programs (Ministry of Education, 2012b). The shift to post-graduate primary and secondary teaching qualifications will position ECE teachers at a lower level of qualification than those in the compulsory sector. Parity for early childhood educators has been a long-standing struggle in this country. Yet, if the ECCE sector wants to maintain parity of qualification levels, it would be very difficult for non-Maori teacher education students to attain the cultural competencies espoused in “Tataiako" in a one-year time-frame. Mentoring of beginning teachers, and regular opportunities for relevant in-service professional learning are important factors that contribute to teacher competence (Aitken, Piggot-Irvine, Bruce Ferguson, McGrath, & Ritchie, 2008; Piggot-Irvine, Aitken, Ritchie, Bruce Ferguson, & McGrath, 2009).

Whilst the individualism of neoliberalism directly contravenes the collectivism of te ao Maori, as expressed through Maori values of whanaun- gatanga (relationships, connectedness), aroha (the reciprocal obligation to care, respect), utu (reciprocity), manaakitanga (generosity), and kai- tiakitanga (guardianship of the earth), Deleuze-Guatarrain thought suggests a mode of ethical resistance to such regimes. Ethical possibilities at the teacher/inter-intra personal/pedagogical interface might include dispositions of sensitivity, humility, reflexivity, and compassion (manaakitanga), grounded in acknowledgment of the centrality of culture(s) to identities and learning. Furthermore, in shifting away from monoc- ultural/Western-dominated pedagogies, an openness to and respect for Maori culture extends to the inclusion of the home cultures of all those attending a center, since kaupapa Maori values require the enactment of manaakitanga (caring, generosity, and hospitality) to all ethnicities present. Such reconsiderations may allow us “to locate the ethical self as a locus of resistance to the systematicity of knowledge-power processes; a locus of resistance which operates in ways which enable the interstices in those systems to be exploited and the reproduction of control to be traversed or subverted” (Chesters, 2007, p. 245).

E te Manu Ariki Whakatakapokai, te Manu Tute Te Manu Tu Rae, Rere atu, Rere mai

Likening the majestic steadfast leadership of migratory birds to the bilingual/ immersion educational alternative of Kohanga Reo, it is through this system which our tamariki/mokopuna (children and grandchildren) are nurtured and will take flight in whatever direction they wish

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