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Tag: Maori

Talk-ED: Expressing ourselves in public


It is an interesting discussion that has arisen on the use of haka in general and Ka mate! Ka mate! In particular.

Valerie Adams was first to throw in the debate expressing in her recent book consternation at the actions of the Olympic Team Leader Dave Currie in unleashing a haka at 2am in the night after her victory causing some disturbance to other athletes. Her view was that it was over the top, well past a reasonable hour of the night and something of a habit that Currie had developed – the planned spontaneous haka.

That led to some interesting comment from a sports writer wondering why the All Blacks persisted with the Te Rauparaha haka rather than using the one specially written for them – Kapa o pango. This then led to a general discussion of the propensity for the haka Ka mate! Ka mate! to be done to death at the drop of a hat in versions that ranged from the moving to the grotesque, in settings that ranged from the appropriate to the absurdly inappropriate, and in styles that ranged from the respectful to the total disgusting sham.

The point was made that many schools grace sporting occasions with a haka that belongs to the school (especially the boy’s school) and that many rugby teams in the regions start and / or finish the big game with one of their haka.

The Ka mate! Ka mate! haka has become de rigueur to the current generation and one wonders why the keenness to “perform” it increases with the hour of the night and the extent of the carousing that has preceded it.  Men in black tie gear have been seen to strip off at a formal event and give all that they have got (and often all that they know). I have seen grown men in formal places and in other countries feel that such a display was something of an obligation. It is not pretty and they should all return home and wonder about the respect they are showing to a cultural event and artefact that defines New Zealand Aotearoa.

It is hard to imagine a comparable insult that could be visited upon the Pakeha.

The challenge to do something about this will only be met by what we do in schools with the oncoming generation. They learn lots of things in school and can certainly learn a haka or three. But the real difficulty is that when we are asked to behave as if we come from one country, a group of people drawn from different places has to have a default position – and the haka emerges.

What can we do to provide to young New Zealanders the means of cultural and country expression that can unite us in a public show of unity in performance?

The Australians have “Waltzing Matilda”, the English a whole sack of old numbers – “Land of Hope and Glory”, “Jerusalem” – the Scots have many a ditty and even more when the uisge (40%) flows. But what do we have?

Perhaps we should agree on ten waiata that all New Zealanders will know and be able to sing with beauty and skill. Then late at night in some foreign place, a group of New Zealanders could come together and appropriately, gracefully and correctly express wonderful sentiments and emotions in song.

Perhaps more attention could be paid to the context in which haka are appropriate, the grace and skill of the haka when performed well (c.f. Sir Apirana Ngata leading the haka in front of the wharenui at Waitangi in 1940), or go to any cultural festival such as the schools’ Polyfest, or Te Matatini.

There has to be more to us as a people than the denigration of culture and “Ten Guitars”!



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Pathways-ED: E ngā Akoranga. Akohia te Reo nā te mea he oranga kei reira.


Stuart Middleton
26 July 2012


We often get greatest wisdom about education from people outside of education and the recent statement from Hon Tim Groser was just another instance of this.

“All New Zealand students should be learning te Reo Māori,” he said. No ifs no buts.

His reasoning was that in a global world that is multilingual we need a community that is linguistically able to operate with ease and comfort in a range of language settings. He is of course right in this.

Students who can and do learn French and German are also developing a language facility that has these characteristics but is less useful in terms of the fabric of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Bilingual brains are better brains and only a very small number of countries speak only one language. There is that old quip that if you speak many languages you are multilingual, if you speak two languages you are bilingual and if you speak one language you are English. There is some truth in this as the pattern of monolinguals is more aggressively present in English-speaking countries than in others. Well, that used to be true but it has been challenged by two key features of the world we live in.

There has been a world-wide resurgence of indigenous languages in that set of Anglophone countries. This phenomenon would have been unthinkable in the 1950s and 1960s when it was thought that speaking a language other than English was an educational handicap. We now rejoice in this country in Māori medium television and radio, in availability of te Reo Māori printed media, and in a younger generation which generally has an ease with the notion that New Zealand has two key languages and three official languages.

The young ones are very different in this respect from the older generations who still phone talkback radio to campaign about the signing of “two anthems” or write to the newspaper complaining when it has printed its masthead in te Reo Māori to mark the start of te wiki o te Reo Māori.

The other key change is the pervasive migration of it around the modern world. In New Zealand our language landscape has been greatly enriched by the presence of the languages of the Pacific, by languages from Asia and Europe and India and many other communities. We are the better for this and a student who has learnt a second language is more able (and willing) to tolerate other languages and even a little more disposed to relate to cultural difference. In short, the fabric of our community is improved when students learn a second language.

Migration has both enriched us by the importation of other languages but also challenged us. We must urgently address the issue of teaching mother tongue languages to our New Zealand linguistically different groups. Urgent in this regard is Cook Island Māori and Niuean. But Samoan, Tongan, and soon Chinese will be pressing for urgent attention. Why wait until language facility is lost before reacting?

But let’s deal with the question that the second language to be learnt should be Māori. Well, it makes sense. Many living languages are now used across the spectrum of daily life across New Zealand. That is not to say that each and every home uses it, far from it, but a student learning has to make very little effort to have contact with it. Furthermore, learning a second language is known to have an impact on ability with the first language.

Why is this? Well the act of learning a new language is the process of constantly asking the questions (to oneself): In what ways is this new language the same as or different from the language I know? In what ways does this language work that are different to the ways the language I know works?

If we want high levels of language ability in our community we need to have a goal that each and every student would learn a second language and In New Zealand the argument that this should be Māori is compelling. Now what about the question of how long should this learning continue. I would argue that it should continue for all 13 years of compulsory schooling after having started in pre-school. Language ability continues to develop and grow and the way to best help this is to be consciously studying two languages – for most students this would be English and Māori, for others it is best to be the community language of the home and English (e.g. Samoan and English, Tongan and English).

Back in the 1980s I was on a Form 6 & 7 English Syllabus Committee that proposed a language programme in which English was compared with Māori – the theory was that such a linguistic study would increase a student’s knowledge about language and have the added benefit of it being about two languages that were firmly bedded into New Zealand. There was wide support for it until the politicians got hold of it, aided and abetted by a small group of teachers who resisted change not only in this matter but in most. David Lange, PM and Minister of Education at the time, lost his nerve and sacked the committee. That made that language issue go away – or did it?

E ngā Akoranga.  Akohia te Reo nā te mea he oranga kei reira.


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Talk-ED: No excuse for delaying changes

Stuart Middleton
1 August 2011

It has been the mid-year, between semester break for education institutions – even EdTalkNZ had a wee rest!. But it is not that educators get a break really and the conference season has been in full swing.

I get a sense that a mood for change is developing.

New Zealand has moved ahead of other English speaking countries in putting together the pieces of the educational jigsaw that will allow for new approaches to be made in tackling the issues of disengagement and the development of more effective pathways between secondary school and further and higher education.

Those jigsaw pieces are the development of a policy setting that allows for flexibility, the existence of a legislative framework, the solution of cross-sector funding arrangements and the development of new and innovative programmes.

Two conferences held in the break have driven home the points that the educational environment in New Zealand needs to change and that there is no longer any excuse not to change.

New Zealand and Australia share a pretty grim set of statistics of failure, of disengagement, and of poor performance by priority learner groups (i.e. indigenous groups, migrant groups, students with special needs). It is clear that continued tinkering with the current education system cannot lead to the changes which improve results nor can it result in changes that are achieved quickly enough to beat the speed of the demographic changes.

The first conference brought together a wide group of educators involved in working across the interface of secondary and tertiary – secondary/tertiary programmes, trades academies, service academies and mentoring schemes. It was exciting to learn of changes happening in small ways, to hear of results being that thrilled and offered new hope for many students.

It was even more exciting to see the energy that was being brought to the challenges of providing new and multiple pathways that reach out to students and led them into higher level programmes and qualifications. It was the view of one international speaker that something very special was happening.

The conference was put together by the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways at Manukau Institute of Technology, the site of New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School – a radical new programme that integrates the school qualifications (NCEA) with postsecondary career and technical qualifications. It has reported some encouraging results after its first year of operation especially in the performance of Maori and Pasifika students.

This was of particular interest to the second conference that brought together a wide range of educators engaged in different endeavours in the field of Maori education. Again the focus was on pathways and pipelines and the need to promote pro-active interventions in both if we are to lift the performance of Maori and Pasifika students – something we simply cannot afford not to do.

A project reported to the conference has seen the development of a web-based tool for Maori students to design and to identify pathways into programmers that already exist. We know that the provision of accurate and detailed information is central to intelligent career advice and guidance and this is a great start.

What has been exciting is that both conferences were evidence of action that encourages us to believe that there is a hope developing that by working differently we really can get different results. As the title of a major report released by the NZ Institute in the past fortnight said – we need “more ladders” and “fewer snakes”.

What educators are realising is that action is possible and no longer, well at least in New Zealand, is there any excuse for inaction. It is no longer a case of “us” and “them”. You know the scenario – “We want to change but they won’t let us!”  “The regulations are so restrictive!” “It’s the curriculum that isn’t appropriate!” “Secondary should be …..!” “Tertiary should be …..” “If only others would do this, that and the other thing!” Same old, same old, boring , boring!

I pointed out to the conferences that while the education pipeline may be badly leaking, quite a number of students are getting through it with great success. Long may that continue. But now is the time for us to once and for all fix those leaks.

Bill Gates summed it up: “We used to say that we needed to do something about all those young people who were failing because it is hurting them. Now we say we need to do something about all those young people who are failing because it is hurting us!”


For those interested the material presented at the two conferences mentioned above is available at and at

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Talk-ED: Hanging washing out in public

Stuart Middleton
27 June 2011

I have long been interested in School Journals and from time to time idly scroll through what is available on TradeMe with the result that I have some interesting publications.

A School Journal from 1908 gives a glimpse of the times and it would be hard to mount an argument that relevance and a reflection of students’ lives was essential if learning was to occur based on the evidence of the content. But then again schooling hadn’t assumed the critical role of responsibility for the development of the person at that point in time. It was much more focussed on knowing things.

In the 1930’s the Journals had quite a lot of very patriotic material and indeed there is one I have that is a tribute to the dead King. Long live the King!

The Janet and John Series, which was the staple diet of my “reading programme” when I was little is remarkable for the stilted and contrived stories, the lack of awareness as to gender stereotypes, and much more. But we learned to read with them so perhaps that didn’t matter.

But the latest addition to this little collection is exciting. Who would have thought that a School Bulletin could be the subject of national controversy? But in 1964 that was exactly the case. A bulletin, well technically the series was styled as A Bulletin for Schools and served as supplementary reading material, was published, distributed to schools, and then withdrawn under orders from the Minister of Education and all copies destroyed.

Washday at the Pa, was a reflection of life in a rural setting of a Maori family that lived in a house, “near Taihape”, that was rudimentary in its services, unpretentious in its quality and something of a shock to the urban sensitivities of many. The family went about the daily life in such a setting with the kids doing what kids do, Mum coping with the demands of a household and Dad out on the farm looking after the sheep. It was a real house, a real family and the photographs were very real indeed.

In itself the simplicity of the story and the photographs that were a feature of it has a charm. Both were the work of Ans Westra, then a young writer and photographer who was well-known through her work in the publication Te Ao Hou, the publication of the then Maori Affairs Department. She was also the author (and photographer) of an earlier bulletin about village life in Tonga, Viliami of the Friendly Islands.

But the newspapers sensed controversy and this led to the Maori Women’s Welfare League discussing the publication at its conference and collectively objecting to it. One participant was reported at the time to have felt that “the living conditions shown are not typical of Maori life, even in remote areas. There are very few Maori people living in such conditions anywhere in New Zealand.”

Within a week the Minister of Education ordered that all 38,000 copies of the bulletin be withdrawn and destroyed. Well obviously they weren’t all destroyed because I now have a copy of the bulletin. That wasn’t the end of the story. The Caxton Press, the well regarded publishing house in Christchurch, later produced a version of the bulletin for the wider public and this seems to have been motivated by both the public’s right to have access to this controversial publication and an assessment of the inherent quality of it. The author made one or two minor changes which in themselves are interesting – the brand of the soap being used in one picture is no longer obscured and the rather mischievous young lad is now allowed to be seen puffing on a “cigarette” that he had made out of a lolly paper. These images were presumably too corrupting for classroom use.

Perhaps of more interest is one further change. In the original publication there is a photograph of the almost completed new house that the family was going to shift to under the government’s re-housing scheme. The politics of the decision to first include and then exclude this picture in the two versions of the publication we can only wonder about.

The allegation that the bulletin was “not typical” is interesting. Was it because that portrayal of the family showed living conditions that were worse than “typical” or better? The discussions never made that clear. And should reading material put before students be “typical” – the Janet and John Series of readers were certainly not that. Nor were some of the later Ready to Read Series (such as the one in which Mummy and the two children, one boy and one girl, wave goodbye to Daddy as he takes off in the Viscount!).

What seems to have been central to the withdrawal was the role of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and one can only wonder whether there was any process in those days for consultation about material being produced for schools? After the event discussion doesn’t work as well as consultation prior.

So, all in all, it is a good little story, this publication and withdrawal and destruction of a good little story. It is interesting to speculate as to how such a controversy would have played out nowadays or even if there would be a controversy.

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