Story: Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations

Page 4. Māori educational initiatives

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Māori Education Foundation

In 1961, the head of the Maori Affairs Department, Jack Hunn, proposed an educational foundation, the Maori Education Foundation (MEF), to promote education of Māori at secondary and tertiary level. Iwi throughout the country supported the MEF and formed committees to raise funds and promote MEF’s ideals amongst hapū and whānau.

Although Māori organisations worked hard to raise money for the MEF, few Pākehā helped them, and despite funds being matched by the government’s treasury, its modest resources were soon outstripped by demand.

Te reo activism

Hunn promoted a policy of assimilation of Māori into the mainstream. His view on the limited usefulness of te reo (Māori language) was widely held by Pākehā – but not by Māori. Ngā Tamatoa and others petitioned Parliament in 1972 for te reo to be available in all schools for all pupils who wanted it, and the first group of fluent speakers of Māori were accepted into teacher-training programmes in 1975. The first of them were offered Māori language teaching positions in state secondary schools in 1976.

Kōhanga reo and kura

One initiative in language recovery sparked international interest. Kōhanga reo (language nests) were a new development in the education system. Kōhanga are pre-schools where fluent speakers of Māori provide Māori language education and care for young children.

The kōhanga movement captured Māori aspirations and within five years more than 700 kōhanga were operating, managed locally, and with a national trust. From kōhanga, young children progress to kura kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion primary schools) or to bilingual units in mainstream schools. Kura are run by Māori for Māori (and interested Pākehā) though funded by the govenment. Kōhanga and kura introduced a Māori kaupapa to New Zealand education.

Other indigenous peoples overseas have taken up the kōhanga model and applied it to their own endangered languages, with variable outcomes.

Tertiary institutions

Te Wānanga o Raukawa (TWOR) was established in 1975 to be the focus of hapū and iwi planning, continuity and growth of three linked iwi from the lower North Island: Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toarangatira and Te Āti Awa. But it took another Waitangi Tribunal claim before it, and two subsequent wānanga, were approved as tertiary education providers. TWOR, as a tikanga- (custom-) based institution, invoked customary practices to manage students’ behaviour, and to pass on the protocols of instruction from traditional times, including the sanctity of knowledge. TWOR pioneered marae-based studies that enable learning in hapū communities. From a very modest beginning TWOR boasted a roll of more than 1,340 fulltime-equivalent students in 2014, and an extensive academic programme offering courses from diplomas to masters’ degrees.

Two other wānanga, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, have also grown in size and importance. They offer marae-based learning programmes, and in addition have established multiple campuses throughout the country, bringing their programmes to their clients. In 2013 Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had campuses throughout New Zealand with over 20,000 fulltime-equivalent students. It was recognised as making a valuable contribution to educating ‘second chance’ learners, attracting and retaining adult Māori into the tertiary education sector.

All three wānanga offered postgraduate degrees in the 2010s. Awanuiārangi in particular aimed to develop as the premier indigenous university, with masters and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations - Māori educational initiatives', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 June 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jun 2017