Story: Māori education – mātauranga

Page 7. Māori education policy

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Early education policy

Education before the arrival of Europeans was characterised by control through the whānau, hapū and iwi. Before governmental intervention, missionaries set up schools to educate Māori students.

Governor George Grey was the first to promulgate policy which supported these schools, in the later 1840s. This introduced government inspection, but also introduced principles on which the education should be based – religious instruction, industrial training and use of the English language. The latter two ideas pervaded educational policy as late as the mid-20th century.

Despite the official policy of amalgamation (bringing together the best aspects of European and Māori culture), in practice the policy was assimilation (bringing Māori into European ways of doing things). This was largely the policy until the 1930s.

Native-school system policy

From 1867 the native-school system was developed, establishing a national system of primary schools. It was initially run by the Native Department. In 1879 control of the native schools was transferred to the Department of Education. This continued the policy of English-language and manual instruction. There was limited access to secondary schooling for Māori, which was largely provided by Māori church boarding schools. Native district high schools were eventually added in 1941 by extending primary schools through to secondary. The focus continued to be on manual education, but changed with the introduction of the School Certificate examination in 1945. From 1945 onwards Māori became increasingly urbanised and increasingly were taught in mainstream schools.

Flax-roots push

From the 1970s flax-roots development, coupled with support from the Department of Māori Affairs, saw development of kōhanga reo, Māori-language preschools. As children progressed, parents wanted them to continue being educated in Māori, leading to the development of kura kaupapa (Māori-medium schools) from 1985. In 1989 kura kaupapa were recognised in the Education Act, and from 1990 the Ministry of Education suported the establishment of new kura.

Tertiary education on a kaupapa Māori basis was also developing. In 1981 Te Wānanga o Raukawa was established. It took some time for this and the other two wānanga to be fully recognised and resourced. As with other community-driven Māori-language education initiatives, government policy largely caught up later.

21st century

In the 21st century the Ministry of Education developed Ka hikitia: managing for success: the Māori education strategy, 2008–2012, a strategy which recognised the eclectic nature of learning styles for Māori in education. It focused on successful outcomes for Māori students in Māori, bilingual and English-language education. The strategy encompassed students from preschool up to tertiary level. It had four broad outcomes:

  • Māori learners working with others to determine successful learning and education pathways
  • Māori learners excelling and successfully realising their cultural distinctiveness and potential
  • Māori learners successfully participating in and contributing to te ao Māori (the Māori world)
  • Māori learners gaining the universal skills and knowledge needed to successfully participate in and contribute to New Zealand and the world.
How to cite this page:

Ross Calman, 'Māori education – mātauranga - Māori education policy', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-education-matauranga/page-7 (accessed 11 December 2019)

Story by Ross Calman, published 20 Jun 2012