Government policy in the 1970s and 1980s
The 1970s saw the introduction of in-service training courses in Māoritanga for teachers and teacher-training schemes for native speakers of Māori. Positions for resource teachers of Māori were established in 1975 to provide specialist advice to primary schools on te reo and tikanga Māori (Māori language and customs), and Māori advisers for secondary schools were introduced.
Kōhanga and kura developments
With the rapid growth of kōhanga reo (preschool language learning nests) and kura kaupapa (Māori-language schools), there have been shortages of suitable resources and trained teachers fluent in te reo Māori. There has been ongoing criticism of the quality of the Māori language of some teachers who are second-language learners themselves. Since 1986 kaiārahi i te reo – fluent Māori speakers who are not trained teachers – have been appointed to support students graduating from kōhanga reo to kura. In 1992 the Ministry of Education launched Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, a curriculum for Māori-medium education based on Māori philosophies.
Bilingual pre-school and special-character schools
At early-childhood level, while kōhanga reo enrolments declined, there was a huge growth in bilingual early-childhood provision through the 2000s. In 2011 in addition to kura kaupapa Māori there were a further 15 special-character schools established under section 156 of the Education Act offering a total-immersion environment. Although many bilingual units had also opened in mainstream schools, access to quality Māori immersion education was still an issue in some areas. Education provision was increasingly based on iwi identity rather than generic Māori identity.
Numerous reports have highlighted Māori underachievement in the education system since the early 1900s. The Waitangi Tribunal’s 1986 Te Reo Māori Report found that Māori children were not being adequately educated owing to prolonged systemic failure and that ‘the education system is being operated in breach of the treaty’.1 In 1998 the Ministry of Māori Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, reported that compared to non-Māori, Māori were less likely to:
- participate in early-childhood education
- remain at secondary school to senior levels
- leave secondary school with a formal qualification
- attend formal tertiary education, particularly university. Māori in tertiary education were more often in second-chance programmes.
Success of Māori medium
In 2009 only 22.6% of Māori school leavers were eligible to enter university, compared with 51.7% of Pākehā. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of Māori university students increased by 19%. Māori made up 12% of local students in 2018, despite comprising 16.5% of the population. Around 5% of academic staff were Māori.
Indications were that students in Māori-medium settings were outperforming Māori students in English-medium settings. However, in 2010 just 14.6% of the Māori school population were involved in Māori-medium education at some level.