Friday, July 3, 2009

Education failing maori - Rawiri Taonui

I have posted before about my admiration for the writing and anaysis of Rawiri Taonui. He is one of my favorite commentators. This from the ODT yesterday.

"Education failing Maori

Open university entry for Maori is one solution for a school system that continues to under-deliver to young Maori.

The Hunn Report first documented Maori under-performance in the 1960s.

Understanding has come a long way since.

Maori fail in education because education fails Maori.

The destruction of pre-contact wananga (schools), subjugation of tohunga (priests) and attempted obliteration of te reo nearly annihilated ancestral institutions for knowledge preservation and transmission.

Based on false notions of intellectual, cultural and moral superiority, the assimilationist system that replaced them tried to Europeanise Maori into a menial under-class.

The seminal 1980 Royal Commission on Social Policy described it thus - "thousands of Maori are being subjected to a process of schooling that atrophies their potential because the majority of teachers are middle-class and monocultural; they know little of things Maori, speak only English, do not consider Maori language important, consider Pakeha culture superior to Maori culture, and hold low expectations for Maori".

These problems continue today.

While educators recognise prejudice in the outside world, they find it difficult to accept that their institutions reflect those same inequalities.

They are therefore often well-intentioned and assume they know best, but they are patronising in ways that undermine the aspirations of the minority they believe they help.

Some argue Maori underperformance is purely socioeconomic - 35% of Maori who do well come from higher socioeconomic groups and 45% are from high decile schools, while only 20% of Maori from poor families and 18% from low decile schools do well.

However, socioeconomic status is not the sole determinant - Pakeha from higher and lower socioeconomic groups do better than their Maori equivalents.

Asinine ahistorical anti-Maori commentators blame Maori culture and parents.

There are issues of abuse and violence.

Tamariki are five times more likely to be raised by single mums, and 40% of Maori women suffer partner abuse.

However, rather than being endemic, these problems derive from cumulative inter-generational cultural alienation and impoverishment.

Maori mums and dads have in fact shown massive commitment to the education of their children.

Maori parents are 15% of the population but 19% of all school trustees.

They drove the rise of kohanga reo, tikanga reo rua (bilingual-lingual) kura kaupapa (primary immersion), whare kura (secondary immersion), wananga (Maori universities), te reo becoming an official language, the incorporation of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Education Act (1989) and the first Maori Education Strategy (1999).

Moreover, the maxim of brown people failing in white education has only ever changed under the advocacy of Maori parents.

The proportion of Maori with at least one high school qualification has risen to 54%.

The number of Maori with level two NCEA or higher had doubled by 2005.

Maori do better than Pakeha across a broader range of subjects.

The number leaving school with no formal attainment dropped from 40% to 25% in 2005.

Between 2002 and 2007, the number of Maori leaving school with university entry qualifications rose from 9% to 18%.

Numbers in tertiary education have doubled to 91,000.

Nevertheless, Maori are still far behind non-Maori.

Only 2% achieve excellence in NCEA, just 58% pass standards for numeracy and literacy against 75% for Pakeha, and 50% of Maori boys leave school without qualifications, compared with 20% of Pakeha boys.

Maori are three times more truant, and account for 40% of early leaving exemptions and 50% of expulsions.

They comprise over half of those in Teen Parent Units, and 60% in alternative options when mainstream doesn't work.

Twenty percent fewer Maori 16 and 17-year olds attend school, and 40% leave school before age 17 compared with 30% of Pakeha.

Fifty-six percent leave without NCEA 2 compared with 34% for Pakeha.

Three times as many - 35% to 12% - leave with no qualifications.

At current rates of progress, it will take two to three generations before schools deliver equality. That is too long.

Maori will comprise 30% of all school kids within one generation.

In the meantime, it is unjust to ask the Maori we fail to wait until reaching the age of 20 when they can exercise the open right to enrol at university.

Maori do better in Maori immersion and bilingual units. Year 11 candidates at bilingual schools are more likely to meet NCEA 1 literacy and numeracy standards than Maori in English medium units and are also closing in on mainstream Pakeha.

However, there are not enough such units or teachers - 83% of Maori kids remain in non-reo units, 92% are in mainstream schools of which Ero says only 42% deliver effectively to Maori.

Maori also do better where schools have programmes like Aim-hi, a multicultural teaching programme in nine Auckland Schools; Te Kauhua, which bridges gaps between schools and Maori communities (30 schools in six years); and the Kotahitanga programme which addresses teaching practices and attitudes - Maori pass rates have improved up to 15% at NCEA 1, 22% at NCEA 2, and 30% at NCEA 3.

We need new and broader strategies.

Increase the proportion of Maori principals, administrators and teachers to 30%.

Maori are 20% of students but only 12% of principals and just 8% of staff.

Te reo Maori must be compulsory for students and teachers.

The days of monolinguals in charge is over.

In continental Europe, learning the language of your neighbour is axiomatic to living alongside them.

And, let's not forget, universities have similar prejudices.

Middle-class Maori do well in science and engineering.

Maori do better in Maori-led units.

But Pakeha-dominated colleges and faculties fail as many as 50% or more of all first-year Maori students for the same reasons schools do.

There are any number of successful bridging programmes at wananga, polytechs and universities that cater to Maori wanting to re-enter the system before turning 20.

There are also very many Maori second-chance success stories - failed at school, succeeded at university is common.

Open entry is about broadening pathways and options to address prejudiced barriers.

The right to education is a universal one.

Maori must have more than one pathway through a system that is failing.

I have a student who came through an accelerated programme.

His school refused his initial application.

Like all good future Maori parents, he applied by himself: starting at 16, he has straight As and will be enrolled in a PhD course at 21."

Maori solutions to issues facing maori.

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