Foreword by Māori Advisory and Reference Group

Education for Māori: Relationships between schools and whānau.

There is always room for optimism when human relationships are on the agenda, but never more so than when institutions are engaged with each other or when inter-cultural relations have to be taken into account. Fortunately, the New Zealand education system, from its earliest stages, gave high priority to schools needing to work with the communities that they served in order to facilitate the learning and development of their students.

School committees, boards of trustees, and parent-teacher associations made up the backbone that would serve as the conduit between voluntary associations and the formal education system. These organisations, albeit in contemporary form, continue this heritage of working together to draw professional and lay communities into a proximity that will help to ensure that the best education possible will be provided for each and every child.

Healthy communities usually identify and practise a set of deeply held cultural values and standards; they also tend to be prepared to communicate by discussing things without too much filtering, and they role-model effective methods for dealing with moral dilemmas impacting on their children’s well-being. Healthy communities offer opportunities for children to explore issues with cultural and spiritual guidance and give ideas for coping with difficult life challenges. That said, there remains much room for improvement in the way the schooling system responds to Māori community aspirations, and their expectations that the sector provides a context for tamariki “to be Māori”.

This second report from the Office of the Auditor-General reiterates the traditional willingness of schools and communities attempting to work in harmony as best they can on the assumption that successful learning is best conducted when the cultures of schools and homes reinforce the values of each other.

In turbulent times, such as many whānau are experiencing now, human happiness and hope need to be part of daily teachable moments in relations between teachers and students. This idea has never been more relevant nor expressed more succinctly as in the whakataukī:

Nāu te rourou, nākū te rourou, ka ora ai tātou.
With the gifts you bring combined with mine, we will all benefit.

Essentially, there is no “one way” or “best way” for schools and Māori communities to engage with each other. It is clear, however, that the balance of responsibility resides with the schools and the stance they adopt in communicating with whānau, hapū, and, on occasions, iwi. Although this report does not make a conclusion that improved relations between schools and Māori communities necessarily lead to improved learning performances of Māori students, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that, where communicative relations are strained, mutual benefits are less likely to accrue.

Mere Berryman
Lorraine Kerr
Angus Hikairo Macfarlane
Wally Penetito
Graham Hingangaroa Smith