Opinions are divided.
Should te reo Māori be made compulsory in all New Zealand schools? In the education sector, in Māoridom, and among political parties who are weighing in on this kaupapa this election year. This is a divisive topic.
Eight young Māori working in education and te reo revitalisation programmes across Aotearoa give their honest opinions about what the reality is, and what they believe should be prioritised.
YES - MAKE IT COMPULSORY
Tāwini White (Kāi Tahu, Te Rarawa), Kotahi mano kāika – Kāi Tahu Māori Language Strategy
Te reo Māori fluency: Intermediate-advanced
Me noho te reo hai reo motuhake o te kura. Ko te raru ia ko te kounga o te reo. Mēnā ka whakarite tētahi huarahi hai ārahi, hai tautoko i ngā kaiako reo, ka tūtuki pea i tēnei wawata. Hai tāpiri, he ingoa tōku. Mēnā ka ako te tamaiti ki te whakahua i ngā kupu, i ngā ingoa , ka whakamanahia te reo me ngā ingoa hai tīmatanga mā tātou katoa.
Te reo Māori should be compulsory in schools. The problem is the quality of language. If strategies are made to guide, and support te reo Māori teachers, our aspirations may be met. In addition, I have a name. If students learn to pronounce words and Māori names, te reo Māori and Māori names will be empowered as a starting point for all.
Lewis Whaitiri (Ruapani, Ngāti Konohi, Rongowhakaata), self-employed.
Te reo Māori fluency: Ko tōku reo tuatahi, heoi anō kai te ako tonu (First language, though still learning)
Kua roa tou te wā e wherawhera ana te kaupapa nei, ā, e mimiti hoki ngā arero. Me whakarite rautaki mō ngā tau e rima pea kia whakapiki i te kounga, kia whakarahi hoki i te nama o ngā kaiako reo . Kātahi, whāngaihia te reo ki ngā tamariki 5-10 tau, kia mārama pai rātau i ngā āhuatanga o ō rātau ao, o ō rātau whenua, i te mea ko rātau ngā rangatira o āpōpō. Me kii pēnei, me aroha a Aotearoa whānui ki te reo, kia ora ai te reo.
The debate of making te reo Māori a compulsory subject in schools has been going on for too long, and while this happens the number of language speakers slowly decline. Let’s create strategies to improve the proficiency and to grow the number of language teachers. Then let’s teach our kids 5-10 years old, so they have an understanding of the world they live in and of their ancestral lands, because they are the leaders of tomorrow. Aotearoa needs to love and grow te reo together, to ensure its survival, but to also see its uniqueness and its beauty.
Shanan Gray (Te Aitanga a Hauiti), primary school teacher
Te reo Māori fluency: Basic understanding
I strongly believe implementing te reo Māori should be compulsory within our schools. By implementing te reo, it gives us the opportunity to start with the basics to get a strong grounding, and understanding of how our language should be used within a learning environment. Also, from learning the basic reo it encourages all non-Māori speakers to learn at their own pace.
As a teacher in a mainstream school and in a school that has 95 percent Māori population, I have seen the mana and pride te reo Māori has given to our young leaders of tomorrow. Our tamariki need to be exposed to their culture and heritage to understand their identity. Every day we see the hungry minds that want to know more about te reo and therefore we need to feed their minds. If we start off small and do things effectively we will grow as a nation.
Nicki Glover (Te Aitanga a Hauiti), Primary School Teacher
Te reo Māori fluency: Work in progress
It is a national language of our country. It is in danger of being lost. It is our responsibility not only as teachers but as New Zealanders to not let this happen. The biggest hurdle preventing this from happening is teacher confidence and capability. The Ministry of Education should focus less on national standards, and more on working alongside teachers and experts, to provide us with quality professional development so teachers feel confident in incorporating tikanga and te reo into the everyday life of their classroom.
NO - THERE ARE OTHER PRIORITIES
Tataioterangi Reedy (Ngāti Porou), Kaiārahi i te reo Māori (Māori Language Leader at a Kura-a-iwi).
Te reo Māori fluency: Fluent
Whakahē ana au, engari e whakaae ana ahau ki te whakaaro nui nei e mimiti haere ana nga puna reo. Heoi, ko te mate nui kē, kāore ngā tāngata i Aotearoa nei e mōhio ana ki te hītōria o te reo me tōna katoa. Kāore he aroha ki te reo. Ka noho hei reo noa iho, a, ka puta te pōhēhē kāore he hua i roto. Me pēnei pea taku kōrero, ina akona ai te reo, me ako i te reo me tona katoa. He hua ki roto i te whakaturetanga i te hitoria o Aotearoa ki roto i ngā kura. Mā enei korero ka kitea nga taumahatanga kua utaina ki runga i te Māori me tō mātau reo, ka mārama ki te hōhonutanga o te reo e ora tonu nei. Kia huri ai ngā whakaaro, kia ngakaunui, kia ngakau tapatahi ai ki te reo, kaore hei reo korero noa iho, engari kia mohio i te reo me tona katoa.
I don’t think te reo Māori should be made compulsory in schools, though I do agree with the overarching sentiment that the pool of Māori speakers is declining. However, the issue is that the majority of New Zealanders do not understand the history of te reo in its entirety. There is little love for te reo. It is regarded only as a language with a widespread presumption that there is no value in it. When we teach te reo, we need to teach in its entirety.
There’s more value in compulsory New Zealand history being taught in our schools. Among other things, students will learn the hardships that Māori and our language have faced, and the nuances to this living language. Hopefully, perspectives will change, people will empathise and understand that it is not just a language but will understand Te Reo as a whole.
Te Rauhuia Kutia Ngata (Ngāti Ira, Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngā Konohi, Ngāti Porou), Māori medium teacher
Te reo Māori fluency: Āhua pai (Mostly fluent)
Kei hea te wāhanga o te whanau i tua atu i te akomanga, i te kura? Ka waiho noa mā te kura te reo e whakaora? Me pēnei te tirohanga, 24 hāora o te rā, 6 hāora te tauira i te kura, 4-5 hāora te tauira i rō akomanga, āhua ½ - 1 hāora ka whakapau kaha ki te oranga o te reo . Mō te kura rūmaki reo , 6 hāora te tauira i te kura e reo ana, ka puta i te kura kua hoki ki te reo pākeha. Ka pēhea te 18 hāora o te rā e toe ana? Ka whakapau i te katoa o aua hāora ki tō tātou reo? Ehara i te mea ka whai pānga tēnei āhuatanga ki te katoa, engari ka whai pānga ki te tokomaha, otirā ia ki te iwi kōrero mai hoki.
Me hiahia te tangata ki te whai i taua huarahi, ā, me hiahia ia te whakapaukaha kia tutuki i taua āhuatanga. Ko te oranga o tō tātou reo, kei roto i ngā kāinga, ko tā te kura he whakawhanake noa i ngā āhuatanga kua akona e te tauira ki tana kāinga.
Where is the place in this for whanau outside of the classroom or the school? Or will we leave the revitalisation of our language to schools? There are 24 hours in a day, 6 of those hours a student is at school, about ½ -1 hour is spent on te reo Māori. For Māori immersion schools, 6 hours the students spends in a Māori language environment, then they leave school and return to speaking English. What happens in the other 18 hours? Is that all spent speaking our reo? Of course, this does not apply to everyone, but it does to most, especially Māori language speakers.
A person must want to follow that path, and must work hard to achieve what they want. The survival and life of te reo Māori belongs in our homes, the role of schools in this case should be to add to what the student has learnt at home.
Jamie Yeates (Te Āti Awa; Te Pae o Rangitīkei), Tauira whakarauora reo (Language Revitalisation Student)
Te reo Māori fluency:Tōna matatau (Mostly fluent)
Ki te ao whakarauora reo, ko te whenua o Airini tētehi o ngā whetū tarakē. Ki roto o Airini, kua toka te noho o te reo Airini i ngā kura katoa, mai i te kōhanga tae atu ki te haikura. Heoi anō ngā raru. Me uaua ka rangona te reo Airini ki ngā wāhi tūmatanui, ka tahi. Ka rua, ka kawa kē te reo ki ētehi o ō rātou ngākau. Mōku ake nei, ko te take i puta ai ēnei raruraru ko te whakamau o te reo ki ngā kura i mua i te whakaū reo ki ngā hāpori. E rohea kētia ana te reo ki tōna whaitua o te kura, kei reira noho tonu ai. Te āhua nei, kia rātou, ko te kura te tūāpapa o te whai reo. Engari ka mōhio kē tātou ko te whānau, ko te hāpori, ko te iwi – koia rā te tūāpapa tūturu. Kia haruru te hāpori i te reo, ka tahi. Ka rua, haria atu te reo ki ngā kura o Aotearoa.
In the sphere of language revitalisation, the country of Ireland is a shining star. In Ireland, the Gaelic language was made compulsory in schools, from pre-school to high-school. However, there are problems. Firstly, it is difficult to hear the language being spoken in public places. Secondly, some people have been put off the language as a result. Possibly, the reasons why these difficulties occurred is holding the language at school before ensuring its use in the communities. The language is relegated to the schooling environment, and remains there. Perhaps it’s the perception that schools are the foundation for language learning.
However, we know that it is instead families, communities, and iwi – they are the true foundation. Firstly, prioritise a fluent community. Then transfer this to New Zealand schools.
Rongomai Smith (Taranaki, Kai Tahu, Te Whānau a Apanui), Kaiako i te wharekura (Wharekura teacher)
Te reo Māori fluency: Matatau ana (Fluent)
Kāore anō! He iti nō te hunga wātea, nō te hunga pai anō hoki ki te whakaako i te reo Māori ki te iwi e piki tonu nei i te ao Māori. I te ao e noho nei tātou, kei te rere te reo i ētehi hapori iti, engari me uaua ka rangona te Māori o te reo me ōna āhuatanga katoa ōpaki mai, ōkawa mai rānei e māori ai te hinengaro.
He kaiako au nō te kura Māori ināianei. He rite tonu taku tae atu ki ngā hui ā-kura ahakoa te momo kura. I ēnei kātū hui ka rongo tonutia te whakaaro Pākehā, me te tapepe o ētehi tauira me ō rātou kaiako. Nei kāore e taea ana e ngā kura Māori te reo te whakaako kia Māori ai te karawhiu, ka taea rānei i kura kē, e tangata kē?
Mā wai ngā rauemi e whakahī? Mā wai ērā rauemi e hōmiromiro? Mā wai e utu? Hoki atu hoki atu taku whakahī rauemi mā āku tauira, ā, pokea rawatia ana ahau me te aha kāore e kore ehara ko ahau anahe e pēnei ana. Kei kīia e rore more ana ōku whakaaro ki ngā iwi whānui, māna!
Kia tahuri mai te iwi tē aro te reo Māori, me ako! Koinā! Heoti, mōku ake i te wā nei, kāore e taea e tātou ngā kura katoa te whakaako kia noho rangatira tonu ai te reo. Ka mohorīriwai tōna kounga me te wairua Māori i te korenga o te hunga pai, o te hunga matatau hei ako. Ki te whakamātauria tēnei ināianei, ka pōnānā kei huri te reo hei reo Pākehā e kākahuria ana ki te reo Māori, nāwai rā ka Pākehā kē.
Not yet! There are too few available and competent at teaching te reo Maori to learners, even in Maori communities. In reality, there are small communities where te reo is freely spoken, however it is difficult to hear Maori being spoken in all its intricacies; formally or informally with a Maori worldview at the core.
Currently I am a teacher at a kura Māori. The above applies when attending inter-school gatherings for kura Māori. At these gatherings Westernised perspectives are heard through inarticulate Māori spoken by both students and their teachers. If there are some in Māori schools unable to articulate Māori from a Māori perspective, can mainstream schools be expected to do so?
Who will develop the appropriate published resources, tools and technology? Who will monitor the quality of those resources? Who will pay for those resources? These are substantial issues to me, and no doubt I am not the only person or teacher who thinks this way. Lest it be said I am deficit thinking towards the people of our country, no way!
In order for those uninformed to turn to te reo Māori they must learn. That’s it in a nutshell! However, at this time, we are unable to teach in all schools ensuring the integrity of te reo Māori remains intact. The quality and spirit of the language will dilute in the absence of good teaching practice, experts in this field, and people who really understand the language to teach. Tried now, I fear te reo Māori will transform into English merely cloaked in what seems to be a Mäori language. Initially te reo Māori, eventually English.