THE TANIWHAS OF EDUCATION
It is gradually becoming accepted that the education of the Maori is a special task that needs special attention. What sort of attention should we give it?
There is the famous story of the fox who had invited the stork to dinner. Being a naughty animal he served it soup on a flat plate. The stork of course could not eat it and had to go away hungry.
Then the fox went around in great glee and let it be known to the other foxes that the stork was a silly bird which could not eat soup. The story did not go much further but we can imagine some of the kinder foxes getting together to work out ways of helping the stork. Some would suggest if the soup was thicker that would solve the problem. Others would think perhaps the stork just did not like the soup and the thing to do was to put sugar in it. One very wise old fox proposed giving the stork a big spoon to eat the soup with, but of course when they tried that out they found the stork could not, or would not, use the spoon.
There were plenty of foxes with bright ideas willing to help but none of them quite knew how to do it.
Such, in fact, is the problem of Maori education. Just as in the case of the kind foxes, it is not enough to provide material help; for if it is of the wrong kind it may be of no more use than a spoon would be to a stork.
Therefore it is worthwhile to give careful thought what sort of special help would really produce the right result.
In order to do just this, last August the New Zealand Council for Educational Research invited a number of people, some European and some Maori, to discuss problems in the schooling of Maori children.
The purpose of this meeting was not to solve all the problems—it was realised well enough that such a meeting could have been no more effective than the meeting of kind foxes I have just described. The foxes, indeed, would have been far wiser to study carefully how the beak of the stork was formed, how the bird eats, and then perhaps
they could have designed some containers which would be more useful than a flat plate. Of course such containers after being designed would still have to be carefully tested over a period. For instance an old hat would at first seem an ideal container for the purpose, but in practice it would probably be found that the hat would have a hole in it in no time.
What the Council for Educational Research wanted, then, was to collect more facts and do more experiments which would finally lead to a solution of the Maori education problem. The first question for the Council was what sort of facts had to be found, what sort of experiments had to be conducted. That and only that was the purpose of the meeting. It therefore will have no immediate effect on Maori education, but it will result in research being done which is necessary before a real solution of the problem can be found.
The chairman of this working party was Mr G. W. Parkyn, the director of the N.Z. Council for Educational Research. There were twenty other members, some of them head teachers, others research people from the universities, others again officials from government departments. Five of them were Maoris: Mr S. M. Mead, Whatawhata School (Hamilton), Mrs Mary Penfold, Poroporo School (Whakatane), Mr J. Waititi, Maori language specialist, Department of Education, Auckland, Mrs Lena Manuel, Maori Welfare Officer, Wairoa, and Dr B. G. Biggs, Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland. One member, Dr Fanaafi Ma'ima'i, University of Wellington, is a brilliant young Samoan woman.
The meeting lasted for three days and was held at the Victoria University of Wellington. Among the opening speakers were Sir Eruera Tirikatene, and also Mr Roy McKenzie, who is chairman of the J. R. McKenzie Trust Board. He told the meeting that his Trust, which spends £30,000 yearly on various good causes, would support the research the conference would recommend. “The working party will not be wasting its time,” he said.
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?
The first half of the time of the meeting was spent on deciding what sort of educational problems the Maoris have. Conference decided the problems are of three kinds:
Language. What sort of English and Maori do Maoris actually speak? It is only when we know this that we can plan to improve the use of language by the Maori children in the schools.
What is the attitude of the Maori to education? What motivation does the young Maori have for his learning? Is it just so he won't get growled at, or just because he wants to get his certificate, or has he genuine interests too? What are they? People only do things well when they see the point of what they are doing. What can be done to get young Maoris to want to learn more?
Teaching methods. It may be that the effectiveness of the schooling of Maori children could be improved by some new techniques in the running of the schools—in pre-school education, in the teaching of reading and arithmetic, in dealing with backward children, in vocational guidance and ability testing, and other similar methods.
The working party then split up into three groups, one for each of the three kinds of problem. Each of the groups reported back to the full working party towards the end of the conference, each proposing studies which should if possible be done in the near future. The Council intends to publish a full statement about all these research proposals in the near future. This will be a guide to those who wish to do research into Maori education, as the conference has suggested a vast number of subjects on which research is urgently needed. The council will also use the resources made available by the J. R. McKenzie Trust to get some of the projects started in the near future.
It is impossible to do justice here to the many, often extremely learned, suggestions that were made, but the following random examples will give an idea of their scope.
An experiment to be carried out in a community where the children still speak Maori: all teaching in the primers and Standards 1 and 2 to be in Maori, with English to be introduced gradually and slowly. It may well be that if this is done, the education of the child will in the long run be better and the leeway in English easily caught up. Only an experiment will show whether this is so or not.
A Maori language research institute to be set up to deal with the teaching of the Maori language, prepare the necessary teaching materials and bring teaching methods up to date.
A detailed study of Maori pupils from a variety of backgrounds who have been successful—to find out what has encouraged them to do as well as they have done.
To evaluate the effect of various existing educational set-ups which may or may not be of great value to Maori children: preschool education, boarding schools, the scholarship system, Maori District High Schools, and the like.
Last but not least: a study of pakeha culture made by Maori social scientists. These Maoris would move into a European village, describe the whole setup in the smallest detail, and then publish the result, for the benefit of Maori school children, so they will learn how the pakeha world ticks, and also for the benefit of some pakehas who might like to see their faces through this Maori mirror.
These are only a few examples of the suggestions made by the working party. Many of them could only be described in very technical language, and at great length. However, enough has been said to show that this research conference had the interests of the young Maori very much at heart.
Working party on the problems in the schooling of Maori children: Standing, left to right: Mr G. R. Stunell, Rotorua Intermediate School; Dr T. Storm, Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Auckland; Mr J. Waititi, Dept. of Education, Auckland; Mr J. M. Booth, Dept. of Maori Affairs; Mr C. J. Williams, Opotiki College; Mr E. Pittman, English Language Institute, Univ. of Wellington; Mrs Gabrielle Maxwell, recording secretary; Prof. E. Beaglehole, Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Wellington; Mrs Mary Penfold, Poroporo School, Whakatane; Mr T. R. Hawthorn, Kaitaia College; Mr G. W. Parkyn, N.Z. Council for Educational Research; Dr B. G. Biggs, Dept. of Anthropology, Univ. of Auckland; Mr F. R. J. Davies, Officer for Islands Education; Mr R. J. Dow, Raupunga District High School; Mr R. L. Bradly, Officer for Maori Education, Auckland. Sitting down, from left to right: Mr J. J. Watson, N.Z. Institute for Education Research; Mr J. R. McCreary, School of Social Science, Univ. of Wellington; Dr A. Joan Metge, Adult Education Dept., Univ. of Auckland; Mr S. M. Mead, Whatawhata School; Mrs Lena Manuel, Maori Welfare Officer, Wairoa; Dr Fanaafi Ma'ima'i, Dept. of Education. Univ. of Wellington; Mr H. M. Jennings, Ngata Memorial College, Ruatoria; Mr J. A. Hendry, Chief Psychologist, Dept. of Education. (Photograph: John Ashton)