Bishop, Sullivan and Berryman have taken on a challenge that has eluded many before them—raising achievement and reducing disparity for Maori. Their passion for the underdog is obvious. They draw inspiration and confirmation for their crusade from luminaries such Pierre Bourdieu, Paulo Freire and their analysis of New Zealand’s overall education performance compared with other countries that participate in the OECD and PISA tests.

The authors conclude that New Zealand’s education system is of high quality but low equity and simply reproduces itself, a la Bourdieu. They attribute this to our multicultural/multi-ethnic mix and that the focus has been on quality rather than equity. They contend that policies focused on educating all students (including minorities) has not and will not work to reduce disparity as they simply result in social reproduction for members of the dominant majority culture.

They note that system-wide efforts such as multiculturalism and biculturalism have failed to address disparity for Maori and other minority groups. They argue that targeted student achievement is needed where the target group should be those who have been minoritised; that is, Maori and other disadvantaged groups.

[g1_quote author_name=”Dr Paul Potaka” hide_author_image=”none” author_description=”Principal, Nelson” author_description_format=”%link%” align=”right” size=”s” style=”solid” template=”01″]

The authors conclude that New Zealand’s education system is of high quality but low equity and simply reproduces itself, a la Bourdieu.


They believe that change will require a shift from a social reproduction system, which they assert hasn’t worked to change disparity in the past, to an equity-based system that, according to the Te Kotahitanga studies, shows more promise. Building on those studies the writers have developed a very useful model for extending and sustaining reform to address disparity among all those groups that have been disadvantaged by the current system.

Their model works at three levels—the classroom, the school and the system—and is designed to extend and sustain reform to address disparity.

Theoretically, the model should achieve its goals. However, that ignores the role of ideology and politics as demonstrated by the failure of the 1992 Government’s ‘bold paper’ and subsequent policies to address issues in Maori education. Views around Whanau Ora show that things haven’t changed much and the odds are in favour of society continuing to reproduce itself. That is a shame because Bishop, Sullivan and Berryman’s passion is truly a moral imperative that educators everywhere ought to embrace.

On the bright side, this model definitely has utility for other programme or reform initiatives that need to be developed, extended and sustained; for example, e-learning.

Reviewed by Dr Paul Potaka, Principal, Nelson