What is different about a successful Māori approach to tertiary education?
A number of overarching themes emerged from our research.
Māori terms education is valued as a communal good not just a personal one
Students and staff talk about the importance of the programme being targeted to meet community needs.
Mainstream goals for tertiary education do encompass societal as well as individual good (for instance, preparing people to contribute to “our knowledge society”). However, educational success is predominantly constructed as an individual accomplishment rather than as an interaction with the wider community. The programmes we studied are working towards twofold goals: the success of individual students (academic, artistic, personal) and the development of the well-being of the community, building its capacity in the particular area of each programme: language revitalisation, arts and community identity, appropriate social services, technology in each whānau. Students are as motivated by what they hope to be able to offer the community when they graduate as by their personal gains.
Māori models of sustainability or kaitiakitanga involve not only conservation of resources but also guardianship of land, language, history and people
The vision that underpins each of the programmes holds an understanding of and commitment to a duty of kaitiakitanga or stewardship. In various ways each programme is concerned with sustainability, in its human, spiritual and often environmental dimensions. Whereas western approaches to sustainability in education tend to focus on conservation of threatened physical resources, and perhaps on the need for succession planning in staffing, people are the heart of Māori notions of sustainability, and with them, inseparably connected to well-being, comes language, arts, culture, land, mōteatea, histories, whanaungatanga and whakapapa.
The learner is a whole and connected person as well as a potential academic
The holistic approach that underlies the above concepts of sustainability also characterises the constructions of learner as a whole and connected person. A holistic approach to learning is invoked as students confront issues in their own lives as a result of their study (the contexts that have made them second language learners of their own language, the historical and personal themes that are being explored beneath the surface features of design, the discovery of compromise and oppression in their own
lives as they study these in society). The process can be painful and needing of practical and emotional support. Within a Māori approach to tertiary education the academic goals of the programme are not separated from the holistic development of the people who are to be its graduates. In addition, each learner is a member of a wider family and of a community. Students are people with multiple obligations and personal journeys of growth. Māori perspectives look for traditional western academic expectations to be mediated by valuation of the learner as a whole person.
The development of space where Māori values operate becomes a “virtual marae”
Over the last couple of decades the building of marae in schools and tertiary institutions has allowed Māori values and processes to operate on those institutional marae without too much interference from the rest of the institution. It is sometimes claimed that learning of things Māori can only be really successful when it occurs on such marae.
Our study suggests that the placement of courses for Māori in physical marae buildings is less important than in developing spaces where Māori values operate, where Māori knowledge is valued, where iwi are welcomed and where Māori people can be at home.
There are tensions to be navigated between institution drivers and iwi goals
Although the institutional management is strongly supportive of all the programmes we studied, in every case there are some areas of tension between the external demands made on the institutions and the aspirations of iwi.
Sometimes these are in terms of competing knowledge systems, and the struggle to assert the validity of Māori models of pedagogy and scholarship alongside the accepted western ones. Sometimes they are between what iwi value and what quality management systems prioritise. There is pressure on the teachers in each programme to meet both sets of expectations.
At the conclusion of our study, we consider that active planning for widespread success for Māori students at tertiary level will involve re-evaluation at national as well as institutional level of the drivers that shape institutional practice in terms of what Māori value.
Researchers - Janinka Greenwood & Lynne-Harata Te Aika, College of Education, University of Canterbury
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