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 7 March 2019 

Education Reform And Māori Success


Leading educationalist Russell Bishop has cast doubt on the chances of major reforms in education leading to improved Māori educational success.


The government has embarked on a proposed major shakeup of the school sector which would remove boards of trustees and see schools run by regional educational hubs similar to the old education boards.


But Russel Bishop, who is emeritus professor of Māori Education at the University of Waikato, says what needs to happen is for schools to improve relationships with Māori students. Many of his points are equally relevant for early childhood services.


“Wellbeing and mental health rely upon our developing positive and effective relationships, something few Māori students report experiencing in our schools”.


Here’s some more from his article:


“Research has shown that developing schools and classrooms as if they were (extended) families provides educators with settings where Māori students' belonging, participation and individual learning is supported and developed.


This sense of family-ness, for example, promotes a relationship-based education that has much to offer teachers and school leaders currently trying to support those marginalised from the benefits of education.


However, family-like relationships are not enough in themselves to promote improved learning.


Classrooms also need to be places of interaction and dialogue where students of different cultures can bring who they are, what they know and above all, how they understand and make sense of the world to the conversations that generate learning.


The progress that learners are making can then be monitored and practices modified appropriately.


In this way, further progress is ensured and sustained so that learners are able to take responsibility for their own learning; the foundations for further and ongoing learning.


Research has shown it is this type of approach that improves educational outcomes for Māori students, not changing the ways that schools are organised.


It also gives active expression to Te Tiriti o Waitangi because it promotes the idea of partners in education (Article 1), acknowledging Māori students' distinctive differences (Article 2), in ways that promotes benefits for Māori and all students (Article 3).


A relationship-based approach means that teachers and other school leaders can focus on improving learning.


That Māori students are not provided with this type of education is the root cause of the lack of equity in our system, not the type of administration.


Learning is the essential core of education (including learning of knowledge), and is where educational disparities must necessarily first be addressed.


The danger of education reform focussing on administration and governance is that the focus on promoting equity will get lost in the hurly-burly of everyday activities and administration.


Governance issues need to be subsumed within a wider educational reform that poses reducing educational disparities as its primary focus.


This is not only important for individual learners, it is also vital for the health of democracy that all its citizens are able to be responsible, critical thinkers and questioners of power.”




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