When you can't see yourself represented in a system, it's only a matter of time before you disengage with it.
Engaging Māori students and ensuring they see themselves in every aspect of the education system must be the focus for all education institutions to reduce inequality of success between Pākehā and Māori.
The announcement of the proposed vocational education reforms presents us with the opportunity to reassess Aotearoa's education framework.
However, the proposed reforms unfortunately didn't look at ways to overcome the lack of Māori engagement in the education sector. Significant work needs to happen to ensure that we're not only changing for the sake of change, but rather to implement the "fix" that is needed, especially for Māori.
A national Bilingual Education Framework reframing the curriculum to reflect greater Māori content will help overcome many of the environmental challenges faced by students who are currently being marginalised.
We have come a long way in reshaping te reo and redefining negative elements that have tarred the system. But for too long we have engaged in conversations around education standards without the backing at a national level for change.
Te reo should be included in all tertiary and vocational training material, as a first step in building a Bilingual Education Framework that would enable students to move freely between immersion and non-immersion education and not be penalised as they are currently.
With goals for a bilingual Aotearoa by 2023, a Bilingual Education Framework would be a key driver in creating an education system that Māori can see themselves in and showing that Māori content has a place across every subject.
There is currently no place for Māori to provide to the labour market the skills needed to be work-ready and to meet the demands of the Māori economy.
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The Māori economy requires people to be knowledgeable in a number of areas, and it requires them to have knowledge of te ao Māori. Translating all key terms listed in Certificate and Diploma subjects as an example, will provide a platform to add Māori content across all national certificates and diplomas.
The 2018 Year 12 NCEA level 2 attainment is 68.1 per cent for Māori, compared with 81.2 per cent for Pākehā.
In 2017, 84.9 per cent of Pākehā students are likely to stay in school until they are 17, compared with just 71.9 per cent of Māori.
Through these statistics, we see words like "underachieving" become markers of students who haven't had the equitable opportunity to develop and succeed.
Instead, I have introduced the term "under-developed". In doing so, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi is rerighting, and re-writing, our history and worldview. Māori have been led to believe our failure in Aotearoa's centralised education system is a Māori problem — that we do not have the ability to be successful.
For Māori students to have an equitable chance at success, we must stop blaming Māori and instead look at developing an education system that recognises the knowledge and skills unique to Māori and te ao Māori.
Nay-sayers are quick to attack this focus on Māori as being unfair. They say, if you provide support for one sector, you must offer equal support to the other. But in doing this, we are maintaining the inequities we are trying to resolve.
Partnership and commitment within the sector and with government is needed to achieve positive outcomes in the system. It's our time to fix what's broken.
• Professor Wiremu Doherty is chief executive of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi