Key points

  • Kura kaupapa are preferring not to use Nga Whanaketanga – the equivalent of National Standards.
  • Kura are developing their own curricula and assessment methods that more accurately reflect the progress of tamariki.
  • Some mainstream schools are also using Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, the Māori version of the national curriculum, as it offers more flexibility.

Heni Collins investigates the innovative ways kura kaupapa are working with curricula and assessment to avoid the inflexibility and stigmatisation of National Standards.

Less than half of kaupapa Māori schools and kura are reporting under Nga Whanaketanga (which the government sees as the Māori equivalent to National Standards), more than three years after the date government expected kura to have embraced them. As well, the data is variable and of minimal use.

Of the 296 Māori-medium kura, or kaupapa Māori schools, only about 200 use Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the Māori sector curriculum approved by government), and in 2013 only 117 schools reported to the Ministry under Nga Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori, says the Ministry of Education’s statistics website, Education Counts.

The proportion of schools and kura providing data is so low, “care must be taken when interpreting the data”, states the website. In other words, its value as a measure is very doubtful.

An NZEI Te Riu Roa member Merearihi Whatuira, kaiako at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Uri a Maui in Gisborne, said that while Te Marautanga is used as a guide, her kura mainly follows Te Aho Matua, the philosophy agreed to amongst kura kaupapa (under section 155A of the Education Act 1989). The kura also has its own assessment measures based on tuakiritanga (identity).

While the kaiako there regularly assess the tamariki on their korero (speaking), tuhituhi (writing), panui (reading) and pangarau (maths), they do not officially report to Nga Whanaketanga. They believe that placing each tamaiti on a graph, comparing them to an arbitrarily chosen “standard” is both painful and damaging” “patu tangata, patu wairua, patu ngakau”, says Merearihi.

Below what?

While she knows of some parents at other schools who like the idea of comparisons, others find it disturbing. “Their children are getting these reports, showing their children are below” below what? It’s sad when you hear these stories from parents.”

Whanau of tamariki at her kura meet frequently with kaiako, and ask about achievement levels, but mostly care about whether their children are fitting in and thriving. “It’s – are their kids happy, are they behaving themselves?”

The kura kaupapa Māori philosophy Te Aho Matua is a publicly available document which has six components including Te Ira Tangata (a child-centred, holistic approach to learning, focusing on physical and spiritual education), te reo, nga iwi and te ao (nature and the universe). According to the Education Review Office, the effect of section 155 is to “specify and empower the special character of Te Aho Matua Kura Kaupapa Māori”.

Further, in ERO’s experience, high performing kura that operate in accordance with Te Aho Matua meet the expectations for children’s high quality education as set out in legislation, specifically in the National Education Goals and National Administration Guidelines.”