Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Names crucial in schools

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Many teachers find Celtic names challenging, not just Maori ones, a Napier principal says.

"Many parents name their children the Celtic way - I've seen those [names] written down and just have no idea how to pronounce them," Nelson Park School principal Nevan Bridge said.

His comments follow Education Minister Hekia Parata's rebuke for teachers who mispronounce names of Maori and Pasifika pupils.

Mrs Parata spoke out as she addressed more than 100 educators at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington last week.

"It starts with pronouncing names correctly," she told them. "It's one of the most common things I hear [from] focus groups with Maori and Pasifika kids."

Mr Bridge, whose school roll is about 35 per cent Maori, said Ms Parata had a fair point.

"We all want our names pronounced properly.

"And for Maori and Pasifika children, quite often their names represent something that is very significant for them, within their history or their iwi or their hapu," he said.

PPTA president Robin Duff, principal of Burnside High in Christchurch, said teachers often went the extra mile to ensure names were pronounced properly.

Mentors worked with student-teachers in their first year of work to help with the pronunciation of pupils' names.

"Most commonly schools today [also] have an elder or kaumatua ... who is able to specialise in that area.

"It's pretty basic teaching that if you're going to work with a student and you want the best from them [that] an inability to pronounce their name... repeatedly is hardly conducive to a good learning environment."

The Maori Language Commission says the mispronunciation of names often has a longlasting impact on people.

"We've had many comments and stories from people of all ages about the impact of mispronunciation of their names in schools and in a wider context," said chief executive Glenis Philip-Barbara.

"So, I was very pleased to hear Minister Parata raising this as an issue."

And while efforts on pronunciation had improved over the years, a lot more work was needed, Ms Philip-Barbara said.

"For every one teacher who will take the time to try and make the effort, there are many more teachers - who for a whole complicated measure of reasons - don't make that level of effort.

"And we're not just talking about people's names but also place names and the importance of pronouncing those correctly."

Yesterday Ms Parata said she stood by her comments.

She told the Pacific Principals Association conference that putting learners at the centre was one of the keys to achieving educational success for Pasifika students.

"It was in this context that I was talking about establishing relational trust that starts with being able to pronounce our young people's names properly. That was the context - I don't resile from that," she said.

Speaking to the media after yesterday's conference, Ms Parata said she thought she had been "pretty well received" at recent conferences.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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