kohunga1Quality early education for Māori children is critical to reversing underachievement. Yet kōhanga reo are funded at lower rates than most other early education providers” teachers are paid less and resources are fewer on the ground.

At the heart of the problem lies the question of teacher training. Kōhanga qualifications are not recognised in the same way as mainstream ones when it comes to funding” sometimes.

‘I was surprised to discover that 290 of the 450 kōhanga were getting funding for the 20 hours free education as the criteria had been set as “teacher-led” and we know that kōhanga are “whānau-ed”. We were informed that for the “20 hours free” kōhanga who had kaiako with whakapakari qualifications were recognised,’ says NZEI Te Riu Roa’s Matua Takawaenga Laures Park.˜But the for hourly funding, the rate is much lower for kōhanga because their qualifications are recognized only at the lowest level.’

Kōhanga staff are generally trained by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, in Te Tino Rangitiratanga Whakapakari” a three-year course that sits at the same level as a teaching diploma on the national qualifications framework.


Yet the qualification isn’t recognised by the Teachers Council, which has told NZEI Te Riu Roa there are sticking points, which are likely to include who delivers the training (are they people with early education qualifications) and the need for practicum in a variety of settings, not just kōhanga.˜We want to address these issues,’ says Laures,˜But the Trust has indicated at this stage it doesn’t want to work with us.

‘People have fears that we are a Pākehā organisation who will undermine the mana or the kaupapa” but what we actually do is support our kōhanga members; we look for solutions and possibilities, we use our resources to find ways that might be achievable, and make suggestions. I’m hopeful these fears will be overcome in the near future.’ So do NZEI Te Riu Roa’s kōhanga members who share a frustration at not being able get the best resources for their tamariki.

kohunga2One member, who completed whakapakari training but was impatient with lack of progress in it being recognised as a degree, went to Massey University to study.˜Everybody thought I was really smart because I was getting A’s and A pluses but really it was because I’d learnt it all already with whakapakari.’ She is now enrolled in her master’s degree, but faces much negative sentiment from her whānau for taking the Pākehā route.

NZEI Te Riu Roa’s national secretary Paul Goulter says the debate needs to move on.˜It makes no sense at all for one group to get more funding than the other” but it won’t change by asking nicely. We have to push hard and we have to push together.˜Things will only get worse, they’ll get to such a point where things collapse and can’t be rescued” and that danger can happen rather more quickly than people think.’

Te reo reverses underachievement

Māori students whose education has been in Māori-medium schools appear to do strikingly better than their peers in English-medium schools.

Although the research is still relatively sparse, it shows for example that in 2006, more than 80 percent of Māori students in Māori-medium schools were meeting literacy and numeracy requirements for NCEA Level 1 by the end of year 11″ compared to around 60 percent of Māori students in English-medium schools.

Another way at Ngā Kōaka

A thriving Hamilton kōhanga proves you can have it both ways: great kaupapa and better funding.

Set up alongside Waikato University, Te Kōhanga Reo o ngā Kōaka has around 70 children and 16 permanent staff.˜A lot of the parents who set it up were educationalists and lecturers and they had a passion for ensuring their children had a good education, and for that to happen they wanted qualified teachers” they aspired for their children,’ says teacher and NZEI Te Riu Roa activist Manu Pōhatu.

Manu qualified through Te Whare Wānanga and the New Zealand Childcare Association, and because the centre is˜teacher-led’, compared to most kōhanga which are˜whānau-led’, it qualifies for higher funding.

‘We never compromise our kaupapa or reo here, it flourishes,’ she says.˜And we know NZEI is there to help us if we have any problem with our employment agreement, and to negotiate good pay and conditions.’

Another long-time teacher at Ngā Kōaka, Desmon Tipene, says the terms teacher-led and whānau-led are artifical distinctions as parents still govern Ngā Kōaka. But he understands the fears about operating in a Pākehā world.

‘Take myself for example” previous to jumping into my training up at the university, I was totally, “No, brought up in this Māori world and this is my world, and I enjoyed, it’s safe.

‘But the advantages of being in two worlds are huge” I would never go backwards, after doing my training. I’ve been able to adopt all these new ideas. It’s an advantage to be able to operate in two worlds.’

Desmon started at Ngā Kōaka when his Aunty asked him to help pour concrete for a new path. “I thought it was just amazing speaking te reo. It reminded me of growing up with kuia and koro. Then she rang me up and said she needed a reliever. Slowly she coerced me into doing the training.” Fourteen years later, after meeting his partner, another teacher at Ngā Kōaka, he has a son at the kōhanga ‘it’s definitely opened a whole heap of doors’.