Tuia Te Ako 2013: How do Māori define excellence in tertiary education?
The line-up of keynote and panel presenters promises to be exciting, challenging and action-focussed. The three key themes - Whakapapa, Mātauranga Māori and Kairangi - have been carefully developed and will form the foundation of what people discuss, share and take away from this three-day event.
On day three of the programme, keynote presenter Ani Mikaere is scheduled to address attendees on the theme of Kairangi. Her abstract indicates that she will question the conventional definition of excellence and how we in Māori tertiary education may express it.
The Ako Aotearoa Kaupapa Māori framework, Te Tauākī Ako, defines kairangi as excellence although it can also mean highly esteemed or precious, which, it can be argued, are qualities of excellence.
Kairangi is also used by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to describe excellence in NCEA examinations, with kaiaka used for merit. A former colleague of mine differentiated the two terms by saying, “when you achieve kairangi, you feast in the sky. When you achieve kaiaka you feast at the root of the vine.”
In another life, I worked with a sporting organisation whose motto was, “mana toa”. I inquired of one of the kaumātua associated with the organisation as to the meaning and he replied simply, “excellence”. The issue for me was that the team was not synonymous with conventional notions of excellence, achievement or winning but more with manaakitanga, community, participation and the occasional victory. I brought this up on one or more occasions, but was rebuffed with a gentle, “mana toa is not just about winning”.
But isn’t that the end result of excellent planning, systems, people and preparation? One of the most successful sports team in the world, the All Blacks, talk about a fear of losing, but they also talk a lot about having excellent systems, a strong and proud team culture that provides an excellent foundation for good people making good All Blacks.
At Tuia Te Ako 2010, Whatarangi Winiata stated that leadership was but one component of Rangatiratanga. The Kaupapa Māori Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards criteria point to a similar scenario with kairangi. Based on these criteria, kairangi encompasses excellence but puts it squarely into a Māori context where te reo me ona tikanga, Māori ways of knowing and doing, learner, whānau, hapū, iwi and community benefit, and a raft of other things, are not just valid but are celebrated.
Excellence forms just one part of these complex criteria and the other considerations are equally important for Māori.
In 2011 Professor Michael Walker received an award for sustained excellence in teaching in a Kaupapa Māori context. In addition, he was also announced the 2011 Prime Minister’s Supreme Award recipient. This prestigious award reflected not only the ongoing commitment to his learners, but a demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching that impacted well beyond the classroom and institution. And isn’t that what kairangi is all about in tertiary education? The end result has to be of benefit not just for the learner but for their whānau, hapū, iwi and community. In a nutshell, mana-aki - mana gained from achieving for and giving to others.
Kairangi for me is strongly linked to manaakitanga, as it was for that sporting organisation from my past. The more you provide, the more people will gain from what you do and consequently the larger the esteem. There will be people who personify kairangi in our midst at Tuia Te Ako 2013 - Te Ahorangi Whatarangi Winiata, Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, Pania Papa and Ani Mikaere, to name a few. A well known whakataukī comes to mind – Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi. Engari takimano nō aku tīpuna. My greatness does not come from one source. It comes from many, handed down from my ancestors.
I finish with some questions for you to ponder and reflect on. How do you define and use kairangi in your classroom or role? How do you use kairangi when working with Māori on behalf of your tertiary institution? And, how do you express kairangi (as Māori) in your work with your tertiary institution? I welcome your comment and look forward to continuing the discussion in the lead up to our hui.
Tau ana te mauri. Hui e tāiki e!
Tuia Te Ako 2013 will be held 9 – 11 April at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki.
Register now if you haven't already.