Hon Kelvin Davis in his Beehive office

Changes will attract te reo speakers to teaching

The new government wants more te reo in schools and centres. The work is now beginning to make that possible, writes Heeni Collins.

While the Government’s plans for recruiting more teachers of te reo and teachers fluent in te reo are welcomed, more detail is awaited on how it moves towards integrating te reo into every primary and intermediate classroom by 2025.

How will mainstream teachers be motivated and rewarded for spending the time and effort required to raise their understanding and use of te reo? How will the required professional development be provided?

Challenges include not only the current dire shortage of proficient Māori language teachers and Māori-proficient ITE (initial teacher education) tutors/facilitators, but also the shortage of professional development (PLD) programmes to support teachers to learn Māori language.

Attracting Māori-speakers into teaching will be a good start. The dropping of National Standards and free tertiary education for new students at universities, polytechs and wānanga are two decisions which are likely to boost Māori student teacher numbers.

Scholarships for Māori and Māori-speaking teacher trainees, eg Māori medium primary and Kupe scholarships, have been under-subscribed in recent years, and are likely to be further promoted, says Associate Education Minister, Kelvin Davis.

A specific measure announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins last December was the expansion of the Voluntary Bonding Scheme to new teachers of te reo, and in Māori medium kura throughout the country. This scheme gives financial reward ($10,500) to starting teachers at the end of their third year of teaching – usually towards their student loan, but also given to those without a loan.

Government support for the Teacher Education Refresher course and Ako Mātātupu, the intensive live-in Teach First NZ Leadership Development programme, are also expected to encourage more returning and young teachers with proficiency in te reo.

Also appealing to mature Māori-speakers in the community is the Government’s announced funding for recruiting and retaining staff with Limited Authority to Teach in sought-after skill areas. While all involved in teaching are encouraged to become qualified, this supports Kaiarahi i te Reo and possibly other Māori advisory or teaching roles which could be part-time and temporary.

Who is working on developing further change? Hipkins clearly has a say as Education Minister, but Davis is responsible for Māori education. His role includes growing “the quality and quantity of Te Reo Māori in the education system, including raising the quality of te reo teaching”, better integrating whānau, hapū and iwi into the education system to support Māori learners; and supporting learners to remain on the Māori medium pathway throughout their schooling.

Davis says he will work with Ministry of Education staff, Te Mātāwai, iwi, teachers and others on developing policy. “We’ve got to make good decisions, not rushed decisions,” he says. “We’ve got to work with the sector.”

Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Māori Development is also involved with Te Mātāwai in developing the Maihi Karauna, the Crown strategy for Māori language revitalisation and growth so is likely to influence policy on te reo in education. In a release last October, she emphasised the strengthening of te reo in primary schools.

On a lighter note, Kelvin Davis himself can be seen as a good example of career success based on his understanding of te reo Māori, which he began learning in a mainstream secondary school. While his grandparents were fluent speakers, and his grandfather was respected as a kaikōrero on his marae (Karetu, near Kawakawa), the language was not passed on to Davis’s father and uncles. Embarrassed by his inadequacy, Davis was keen to learn, and began in his first year at Bay of Islands College, Kawakawa.

“I was lucky when I got to high school that we had a really good Māori teacher, Charles Berryman (Ngāti Awa). The way he talked just clicked with me and I did alright.”

Te reo was Davis’s best subject at school, and he continued learning it at the Auckland College of Education (specialising in Māori and PE) and later with independent learning and mentoring from an uncle as an adult.

“Te reo Māori is a doorway to other opportunities,” he says. “I think every job I’ve got, I got because of my ability to speak some Māori. I got into teacher’s college because I had some Māori, I got the jobs in teaching because of my reo Māori and knowledge in Māori situations. Obviously that led to me coming to Parliament as a Māori MP.”

Davis was a Labour list MP from 2008-2011 and has represented the Te Tai Tokerau Māori electorate since 2014. He is the first Labour Deputy leader of Māori descent and is ranked third in Government. When he was Acting Prime Minister last November, Davis made history in our country by being only the second speaker of Māori (after Sir James Carroll, Timi Kara, early last century) ever to attain that position, and in that role he used te reo in the House.

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