Cultural learning a priority: Curtis

By Gary Hamilton-Irvine

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Introducing a new section to the school curriculum which focuses on Maori culture will help lift student achievement in Rotorua, according to the Iwi Education Authority.

Iwi Education Authority Te Maru o Nga Kura-a-Iwi o Aotearoa chairman Toby Curtis said "culturalcy" should be added to numeracy and literacy as a priority in mainstream schools.

He made the call after Minister of Education Hekia Parata expressed concern about the mispronunciation of Maori pupils' names and the neglect of New Zealand history in schools.

Dr Curtis said the term culturalcy described essential knowledge, values, attributes and competencies in Maori culture and was at the heart of the kura-a-iwi curriculum for many Maori character schools.

He said there had been so much publicity over the past few decades about Maori students not achieving as well as others in mainstream schools.

He wants mainstream schools to ask why students at Maori character schools, who have stronger ties to their culture, are the ones doing better when it comes to achievement and participation.

Dr Curtis said in kapa haka it was not hard to see the huge amount of cultural support students received and the good it did for those involved.

"There must be something there we are taking for granted. We need to start analysing that and extrapolating from that not just in the area of kapa haka but in other areas," he said.

"How difficult would it really be for all schools in the Rotorua district to incorporate and embrace aspects of the local Te Arawa iwi culture and reo ... in the knowledge that this element is developmental and incremental in nature?"

Dr Curtis acknowledged many Rotorua schools did include this type of content in their local curriculum but said it should be regarded as good practice by all schools.

He said at this stage they were not looking at specifics on how to introduce culturalcy in mainstream schools but were looking for reaction to how valid this idea was.

"We want people who are not only literate and numerate but culturate as well, equipped as such with cultural tools that will enable participation in a range of contexts."

John Paul College principal and New Zealand Secondary School Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said he thought the idea had merit but it was hard to find room for it in the current curriculum.

"We already have a crowded curriculum with numeracy, literacy and ICT [information and communications technology]."

He said it would most likely be a matter of having to remove something from the curriculum, which might not be what parents wanted.

"If the suggestions can be accommodated without a huge addition to teachers and the curriculum then they certainly have merit."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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