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No. 65 (December 1968)
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School goes to the Community

Education went to the community in Wai-whetu last August, when more than 100 teachers, parents, students and administrators met for three days at Arohanui-ki-te-tangata Meeting House. Among those present were Mr H. Holst, Officer for Maori Education, Mr N. Vickridge, Principal of Te Aute College, Rev. Fr N. Delaney, Rector of Hato Paora College, Mr T. R. Hawthorn of Kaitaia, Mr T. Royal, Assistant Officer for Maori Education, Mr K. Dewes, Lecturer in Maori Studies at Victoria University, Mr W. Parker, well-known broadcaster and lecturer in the Adult Education Extension of Victoria University, Mr D. Selwyn, Headmaster at Seatoun School, Canon H. Taepa, Fr P. N. Kinsella, Rev. T. Tioke, Dr Joan Metge, Senior lecturer in Anthropology at Victoria University, Mr H. V. George, Director of the English Language Institute at Victoria University, Mr D. Ball, Director of the Maori Education Foundation, Miss K. Kaa, Mrs E. Hetet, Mrs A. Bosch and many others with a special interest in Maori education.

This seminar on Maori education was organised by the Polynesian Studies section of Wellington Teachers' College under their lecturer, Mr B. Mitcalfe, and was made possible through the generosity of Mr I. P. Puketapu and the committee of Arohanui-ki-te-tangata. In charge of the kitchen was Mrs P. Tukukino of Upper Hutt, so the whole affair was very much a community venture.

Discussion covered a wide range of topics, from the past, where the picture was grim compared with today's efforts, according to Mr Holst. Even in the 1930s, only one out of ten Maori children might expect to pass through the Fourth Form. Only one or two a year might expect to gain a degree. Now the number of Maori university degrees from Auckland University since the war exceeds the total number of degrees won by Maoris from all universities in all the vears prior to 1945. ‘In short, although the seminar is concerned about ways in which Maori education services can be bettered, the overall picture is one of continuing improvement,’ said Mr Holst.

In a later panel, Mr George, Director of the English Language Institute, asked why Maori children conformed or were expected to conform to some of the values of the dominant Pakeha society. ‘I am surprised that so many “go through the hoops” of School Certificate, University Entrance and so on.’

‘The schools must change to reflect Maori values and desires, if they are fully to serve the Maori community’, said Mr Koro Dewes. ‘Maori language and Maori studies are an essential part of culture for a large minority in New Zealand, a minority whose culture has been largely overlooked, indeed trampled under, by the dominant Pakeha culture. But it is still not too late for the schools to change to give the Maori culture some of the recognition it deserves,’ he said.

Conference adopted unanimously a remit that would make the teaching of New Zealand sociology, with emphasis on the Maori, compulsory at all teachers' colleges. It advocated the teaching of Maori in all schools where there were significant minorities of Maoris, and the improvement of the topics to be better handled by teachers. New school texts would need to be written in topics ranging from New Zealand race relations to the origin and coming of the Maori.

Mr T. R. Hawthorn, formerly principal of Kaitaia College, said that the secondary school should go to the marae. where parents and college principals could discuss, in a free and open way, the education of Maori children. Mr Hawthorn outlined she way in which unemployment had affected a disproportionate number of young Maoris. ‘Similarly, the courts step in where the schools fail. One out of every three Maori youths at age 21 can expect to have had a court appearance. This figure is a reflection on our society and our schools' failure with Maoris,’ said Mr Hawthorn.

A background paper on Maori unemploy-

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Picture icon

One of the panels at the Maori Education seminar. From left: Messrs T. Key, B. Mitcalfe, G. Tovey and C. Whiting

ment underlined the urgency of the problem. In Whangarei and Rotorua, Maoris constituted more than 60 percent of the total unemployed, while in Gisborne, more than half were Maori and in Hamilton, more than 40 percent. The reasons given by most employers for dismissing Maori workers were that Maori workers had usually been on the job for a shorter period than others, and lack of skill. The paper, based on a questionnaire sent to employers in five centres, indicated that Maori unemployment was lower in the major cities.

‘Although Maori children may be staying at schools longer, the schools themselves must change if these children are to be adequately prepared for a place in our world,’ said Mr B. Mitcalfe.

‘Maori education is not a matter of system, but of skilled understanding and effective teachers,’ said Miss K. Kaa. ‘Where are they? Are they at this gathering?’

‘There are more than thirty thousand Maoris in Auckland.’ said Mr T. Royal. ‘Here is where the problem lies. If Auckland schools could do the job the problem would be overcome.’

‘Special services, special provisions are necessary where special problems exist,’ said Mr D. Murray.

Later, conference adopted a resolution calling for the extension of special service schools into all urban areas where rolls total more than 30 percent Polynesian, so that qualified staff and extra provisions could be made.

‘This was in accordance with a recommendation in the 1963 Commission on Education,’ said Mr G. Johnson. ‘If Maori schools have been abolished as a result of a recommendation of that Commission, then special service schools should be introduced to take their place.’

‘We have heard of failure. Now what of the successes, what do we hear of them?’ asked Mr G. Tovey, formerly Director of the Art and Crafts Branch of the Education Department. ‘There are facets of our education system in which Maoris excel, in movement, in art, in a vision of the world without the confusion of words. Our education is too verbal. It always attempts to approximate meaning with words. The meaning that Maori artists sec—that Cliff Whiting or Selwyn Muru, both here at this conference, can convey—is an art more powerful than the art of words. These are true meanings that will live when all your words are gone.’ said Mr Tovey.

Mr N. Vickridge of Te Aute College emphasised that regardless of special Maori qualities and abilities, the schools must prepare for the world, not for some ideal vision of what might be. Certain essentials remained, certain skills in language, in understanding and in work. Schools such as his own which had their pupils not for five or six hours a day, but for the full term, had a record of consistent success.

Fr Kinsella of Hato Paora said that beause boarding schools removed children from their homes, it was important that the schools make a special effort to keep contact with homes, with home attitudes, home problems and ambitions. For that reason the teachers at Hato Paora each took responsibility for visiting different districts, all over the North Island, so that parents and teachers could understand each other. He said he learnt more on these holiday

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trips than from any book. They were of use not only to the teachers but to the parents. ‘In education, teachers must learn too. This is especially true of Maori education.’

In closing the conference, both Canon H. Taepa and Mr Koro Dewes mentioned the value to conference of the forty odd Polynesian Studies students from Wellington who participated throughout, and who provided the behind-the-scenes organisation that made this seminar possible.

‘Let us hope this is the first of many such seminars,’ said Canon Taepa.