More than 30 secondary schools and kura kaupapa Māori across the country will be introducing a Māori Performing Arts subject called Te Ao Haka (The World of Haka), available for NCEA at all levels.
It was announced this week at Wellington's Pipitea Marae, and a workshop for participating kaiako/teachers has now taken place over a three-day period.
"This is a significant step in our efforts to ensure Māori knowledge, culture and approaches to learning are valued, recognised and supported in accordance with the Government's obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi." Ellen MacGregor-Reid, the Deputy Secretary, Early Learning and Student Achievement, said in a statement.
Te Ao Haka is performance-based, grounded in knowledge of Māori culture, language and identity and will advance a range of skills that can support students to pursue further studies or career pathways.
Māori arts performer and haka expert Eruera Keepa says this step by the Government can act as a vehicle to reconnect Māori students to their marae, culture and language.
"It's extremely important, many of our Māori students actually don't have access to te ao Māori."
Keepa says Kapa Haka during his schooling years was an extracurricular activity to be engaged with only during the weekend or outside of school hours.
"If Kapa Haka at school was recognised and treated the same way as other subjects during my time, I have no doubt that it could've been a strong foundation for me to pursue other career opportunities."
He says Kapa Haka was treated as an incentive to help schools with their student retention rates, "which is quite an important gauge of a school's success".
"This step by Government ensures that our art form is treated and resourced the same way as other subjects at school, and thus improves Māori students' achievement.
"It celebrates our uniqueness and instils a strong sense of belonging."
The news comes as a delight after a tough decision was made to postpone annual Kapa Haka festival Te Matatini, which has been moved from 2021 to 2022.
Kapa Haka has won the hearts of many and Te Matatini will take place at Auckland's biggest stadium, Eden Park.