To the Maori Parents
Looking at the Future
A Maori Point of View
Tēnā koutou e ngā iwi o Aotearoa.
The centennial celebrations of Maori schools held recently and the changeover of control of these schools has ended a fine era in the history of education in New Zealand. It is interesting to browse through the files and note the vigour of the Maori parents in striving to educate their children and grapple with the complexities of life which accompanied the onrush of Western civilization. It is noteworthy too, to look back and reflect on the achievements of our forbears, for, if it wasn't for their tenacity and aspirations we would not be in the comparatively favourable position that we find ourselves at the present time.
There have been Maoris who have reached the highest positions in all walks of life—some of them of course with world reputations. We can look back to Ngata, Buck and Pomare, but we do not need to remain there. At the present time Maoris are prominent in sport, music, commerce and the professions.
But should we be happy with the present situation? Should we be complacent and bathe in the reflected glory of the past? I, for one, would say, no! In a highly technical and complex world we cannot afford to adopt a ‘Hei aha!’ attitude nor should we be saying ‘apopo!’ when it can be done today. This is not a time to look backwards but a time to look forward. Far too often we look backwards into the past. But our vision should not remain there. We should look backwards only to gain strength to go forward.
One may ask ‘What is in the future?’, ‘What should we be striving for?’, ‘How
can we achieve our goals once we have found them?’
May I suggest an answer to all these questions. Although your views may differ from mine I would like to present mine, particularly in relation to education. These views are from a Maori who has been through our present education system, qualifying at university level.
Although we, as a Maori race, have come a long way there should not be any complacency. We have not yet reached the educational level of the European. Far too many of our children drop out of school from lack of encouragement. Far too many leave school when another year could be of some real value. Any additional year of school is an additional qualification. If we look at statistics we find only one quarter of all Maori children sitting School Certificate in any one year obtain this qualification. There should be about fifty per cent. Therefore, there are a few hundred Maori pupils who sit the exam but do not pass even though they have the intellectual capacity to do so. Seven per cent of all Maori pupils leaving high school should go on to university. At the moment only one per cent go on to higher learning of this nature.
This is a poor picture, and there is a need to exploit the potential within our children now, when half of the Maori population is under 15 years of age. If we don't, then we will perpetuate a problem longer than necessary. It requires a greater awareness by all that education is most necessary at present and will be increasingly more so in the future. If there is anything which is respected nowadays, it is an educational qualification. There is no limit to how far one can go, providing one has educational qualifications. Therefore, it is necessary to discover how children learn and how they are able to obtain the most out of the education system.
There is no doubt that the English language is the most important single subject in the curriculum at both primary and secondary school and even at university level. Therefore, all children must be subjected right from birth to the accepted language of the schools. Far too often our children arrive at primary school linguistically ill-equipped and at a disadvantage when compared with the European child. In addition, our education system quite rightly has been planned for the European child, since it has its origins in Britain. Immediately a Maori child, or any child, becomes aware that he is at a disadvantage it becomes a psychological problem and he does not perform as well as might be expected. His selfrespect is damaged.
All children have a tremendous amount of learning to do while at school. Any ‘disadvantaged’ child finds it hopelessly intolerable when he or she is relegated to the lower section of the class. Of course these children do not catch up to the European child generally but find themselves in the ‘C’ and ‘D’ classes at secondary level. Continual failure throughout their school lives inevitably results in poor performance, low achievements and damaged self respect, and before long they yearn to leave school not because of their lack of native intelligence, but ‘because school life has offered them nothing but failure’.
It is, therefore, important to bring up your children with better English fluency. Sit down and talk; allow them to talk; read books to them; answer their questions and give them a great number of varied experiences while they are young. These rich experiences in the bush, on the beach, at the zoo, the airport, the railway station, the farm, the river, and on the lake will provide further opportunities to increase their facility with English. At pre-school level these experiences are vital. All children will learn and are willing to do so.
All children are capable of handling two languages quite easily. But the most important factor here is that far too often most Maori children have been subjected to poor Maori and poor English and these poor languages have been mixed up so much that the ‘disadvantaged’ child starts primary school with a dialect that is not the type that European children have experienced right from birth nor is it the language demanded by the school.
What is required is correct Maori and correct English. In this way you can give your child a better chance to succeed at school.
One of the ways in which you can improve your child's readiness to begin primary school on the same level with European children is to give your child pre-school training. There is no doubt that all children gain from pre-school experiences. It takes some months to settle into a primary school if the child has no pre-school experience. The child has to learn what a desk, a blackboard, a piece of chalk, a teacher, a book, a duster is, and this takes up valuable time. But all this can be learnt before the child goes to school, at a kindergarten or a play centre. It is advisable for the mother to attend the local play centre as well, so that she can get a better insight into child upbringing.
Attendance at Primary School
Most lessons at primary and secondary schools lead on from the previous lesson and so it is vitally important that every child attends school regularly. Any absenteeism is likely to make the child even more ‘disadvantaged’.
No child can learn effectively without the help and encouragement of the school and the parents. It is, therefore, necessary for the parents to join forces with the school. Parent-Teacher meetings and any parental visits to the school are vitally necessary, not only for the parents to learn what is being taught, so that they can help their children at home, but also for the children's sake as they obtain a tremendous amount of encouragement when they know their parents are interested in their school life.
I have also found that children are selfconscious about their clothes and their lunches, particularly if these items are not as good as those of the other children. Again, their self-respect is damaged, and this affects their school work and their mental processes.
Every possible situation should be checked to ensure your child starts off and continues to be an ‘advantaged’ child at all levels of educational training.
The Place of Maoritanga
I think that all Maori children should be taught at home and at school the basic understanding of Maoritanga and a greater fluency in Maori language. I say this because it is necessary for their self-respect. There are so many potential Maori leaders who could do much more for our Maori people, if they knew how to speak Maori, since it is the language of the marae. So often I see the hesitant Maori, who could give so much, retire into the background because of this lack of training. If a Maori is educated he is expected by the European and by his own folk to know at least something about himself in regard to Maoritanga.
All children attending the local high school must have encouragement from parents. This encouragement takes many forms. It requires a period of talks to the pupil about school life; it requires discussing his work with teachers; it requires attending functions at school; and it requires rigid control of his swotting programme each night. Whether the pupils have any set homework or not, they should be reading over their notes or preparing for the next day.
Many Maori parents are perturbed that they cannot help their children at this level because they lack the knowledge. Let me stress the point that even as a university graduate I would never hope to give my child any tuition in his science subjects. But what he will get is a quiet room for at least two hours every night of the week and every possible encouragement from his parents.
It is now possible for adults to attend classes to gain School Certificate and even higher qualifications. I suggest for the good of your children and yourself that you attend these classes and take one or two subjects. I know of a Maori who, in his early 30s sat School Certificate in 1964 and gained very high marks. He is now a junior lecturer at Auckland University. But this is not the only person. A Maori mother with seven children gained her School Certificate and is hoping to attend a teachers' training college. Another Maori lady who gained her supervisor's exam at a play centre is now wanting to start her university degree. There are so many things you can do if you are willing to give yourself a chance.
Finally, there is no doubt that educational training is vitally necessary nowadays. For every educational qualification gained, a far greater number of opportunities become available. No matter what colour a person's skin is, nowadays, if he is qualified, he has a great chance of obtaining the position for which he has applied.
There are qualified Maoris in insurance, land agencies, technical and professional fields, dress designing, the armed forces, the trades, the teaching profession, in law, medicine, dentistry, accountancy, university and training college lecturing and in all walks of life, but we need more and more, and this requires education to a greater degree than ever before.
Nā reira me haere tātou mā te huarahi mātauranga o te iwi Pākehā me te huarahi mātauranga o te iwi Māori. Kia ora ano koutou katoa.
T. K. Royal,,
Assistant Officer for Maori Education,
Record Student Number
This year's total of 92 Maori students is a record number for Auckland University. There are 27 first-year students and 65 others. Four Maori students will be capped this year and 14 are close to completing degrees, including a Ph.D., an M.A., and 12 Bachelors' degrees, each needing only two units for completion.