Standards 'will not drive Maori education'

By Andre Hueber

Maori underachievement is chronic and a disgrace and it's been part of the system for generations.Pem Bird, Nga Kura a Iwi o AotearoaA Northland representative of Maori school principals says there's no evidence  the Government's controversial National Standards  will drive Maori achievement.
A hui of more than 200 Maori educators issued a vote of no confidence in national standards, saying they would damage the learning of Maori children.
The teachers and principals had been attending the annual hui of Te Reo Areare - the Maori Council of the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa.
A statement said Government leaders had claimed national standards would lift the tail of under achievement. But "as representatives of Maori teachers we strongly deny that untested national standards will do that and believe that they will damage the learning of our tamariki Maori."
But Pem Bird, chairman of educational group Nga Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa said Maori deserved better than the "political self serving scaremongering humbug NZEI are dishing up."
Mr Bird is principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau School in Murupara, which operates along traditional, iwi-oriented lines. Nga Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa has 25 North Island schools signed up for the iwi-directed schooling model, but none are from Northland.

 Maori learners would benefit from the new system, which should lift their achievement, Mr Bird said.
"Maori underachievement is chronic and a disgrace and it's been part of the system for generations. The solutions don't lie in the status quo - we need focused, purposeful and innovative teaching and national standards will drive that."
Moerewa School Principal and president of the Northland Maori Principals' Association Keri Milne-Ihimaera agreed with Mr Bird that Maori under-achievement was a disgrace and that the status quo wasn't the way forward.

But she didn't believe national standards would drive the solutions.
Ms Milne-Ihimaera said Mr Bird was talking about kura or total immersion schools which were using Maori standards that were still being trialled and would not apply until next year.
"Mainstream schools use national standards which are being implemented now. Maori standards will be in Maori reflecting a Maori worldview and are quite different."
The majority of Maori learners attended mainstream schools - only 5 to 10 per cent were at kura, Ms Milne-Ihimaera said.

The Northland Maori principals representative said national standards treated every child in every school as having the same ability at a particular point in time.
"It negates local wisdom, local initiatives and local success that will make much more of a difference to Maori learners," Ms Milne-Ihimaera said.
She said  there was "zero" evidence that national standards would drive Maori achievement.
"What will make a difference is localised initiatives based around the needs in a particular community."

- Northern Advocate

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