Linking Business to Education
Linking Business to Education
Speech by William Flavell
Bay of Plenty Polytech, Bongard Centre, Level 5
Thursday 20th September 2012
Tuhia ki te rangi, tuhia ki te whenua, tuhia ki te ngākau o ngā mea katoa. Tihei wā Mauriora. Tuatahi, me mihi ki te atua, ko ia te tīmatanga me te whakamutunga o ngā mea katoa. Tuarua, me mihi ki te Kingi a Tuheitia, me tōna whānau me te whare Kāhui Ariki, pai marie ki a rātou. E mihi ana ki ngā mate, haere, haere haere. Tēnei te mihi atu ki ngā iwi o Tauranga Moana, arā ko Ngāti Ranginui, rātou ko Ngai Te Rangi, ko Ngāti Pukenga. Ki a koutou, kua tae mai nei ki te tautoko i te kaupapa i tēnei pō, ngā mihi uruhau, ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa.
Ko Manaia me Rangitoto aku maunga.
Ko Whangārei Terenga Paraoa me Waipa aku awa.
Ko Ngā uri o Pohe me Ngati Pari aku hapū
Ko Ngā Puhi me Ngāti Maniapoto aku iwi.
Ko Wiremu Flavell toku ingoa.
I acknowledge the indigenous guardians of Tauranga Moana and to those who have passed. I extend warm greetings to our Māori King, King Tūheitia and to the Māori Royal Family and recognise the special national hui that was called for and held in Ngāruawahia last week with regards to Māori water rights. I lastly greet you all who have gathered to support this initiative this evening. Ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa.
Tonight I am here to speak about my educational experiences and why it is important that we make education the main priority for Māori. I was born and educated in Whangārei in the region of Te Taitokerau where we have some of the worst cases of education underachievement for Māori which is sadly linked to many cases of poverty, high levels of both unemployment and poorer health outcomes. In 2004, as a first year student at the University of Waikato, I initially enrolled to study a law degree.
The reason why was because I thought it would be pretty choice if I became the first lawyer from my whānau but more importantly, having studied the Treaty of Waitangi in History in my last year at high school, I was well aware of some of the atrocities that our people experienced and the everlasting effects of land confiscation by the Crown and the loss of Māori language, culture and history and the cruel effect that colonisation has severely impacted on our people. However, it all changed as half-way through my first year at University, I saw a newspaper article on the front page published in the New Zealand Herald which stated, ‘More than half of Māori boys are leaving school without any formal qualifications’. These statistics were described by Professor Russell Bishop as depressing, and represented a future ‘time bomb’ for this country. In 2007, 81 percent of Māori boys in Whangarei failed NCEA Level 1, against a failure rate of 53 percent of Māori boys across the country and 36 percent for student failure nationally. Reading the headline that Māori boys were failing dramatically was the catalyst to change my career focus and instead become a secondary school teacher.
In terms of our current education landscape, a significant number of Māori boys still struggle with basic literacy and numeracy skills when arriving at secondary school and are streamed into the lower classes. There have been recent improvements but society still has somewhat lower expectations of Māori boys, many of whom expect a future of unskilled work. We all are aware that a low income puts considerable pressure on whānau and community and therefore eventually contributes to other problems such as inadequate housing, domestic violence, crime and poor health. Across the nation, many community leaders, academics, politicians, educators and whānau are deeply concerned about the educational underachievement of Māori youth. Without a willingness to turn things around and provide encouragement, support and a clear pathway to success, Māori boys will not only fail to reach their potential but also exact a huge burden on their communities and the country as a whole.
With recent Treaty of Waitangi claims being settled and many more iwi to settle, it is now more important than ever that we focus on education as the number one priority for Māori. By 2020, Māori will make up a fifth of the total working population of New Zealand. Therefore, it is imperative that we have access to young, well-educated Māori who are willing to contribute and work with their marae, hapū and iwi in order to create successful ventures for their people. As a people, we need to challenge the current education system and demand change so that we can get more Māori achieving NCEA qualifications, gaining University entrance and into meaningful employment.
Māori whānau want better educational outcomes for their children and are demanding more from the state education system. Nearly 90 percent of our children attend English-medium schools, therefore it is those schools that we need to have a stronger focus on. Whānau want their children to have access to opportunities available to others and expect schools to be accountable. It is pleasing to see that Government policy is now focused on lifting educational achievement and an increasing number of schools are working smarter and harder to respond to the challenge such as the implementation of the Te Kotahitanga programme which focuses on creating better relationships between teachers and Māori students. We know that what is good for Māori, is good for everyone else. I acknowledge those schools who are working hard alongside Māori whānau to ensure that there is a cohesive relationship between schools and whānau as we all need to take equal ownership in the educational outcomes of all our children.
Firstly, we need to establish and create the conditions in our schools where Māori students can achieve success as Māori. What this simply means is that secondary schools need to implement evidence based practices that will cater for 21st century Māori learners that will drive academic achievement and help young Māori to become future leaders. We need high quality teachers in front of our children who are able to implement a range of teaching strategies that can cater for the diverse learning needs of our students. They need to be able pronounce Māori names properly, possess cultural competency and knowledge, continue to hold high expectations and initiate mutually respectful relationships with students and their whānau. Young Māori also need access to a range of Māori role-models in our schools but also across a number of different disciplines such as science, technology, communications and of course business. It was pleasing to read that Maori are the world's third most entrepreneurial indigenous people - harnessing their business potential would have major benefits for the New Zealand economy.
We may have to look at alternative forms of schooling and there a few shining examples. The first example is Tū Toa School, located in Palmerston North. The entry is restricted to students who have the potential to become nationally ranked athletes and they must also aspire to tertiary education. Students train, eat breakfast and work side by side on their correspondence and they eat lunch together. These students are closely monitored by their teachers at the school. This school is an example where you had several parents who were frustrated at the mainstream education system with the underachievement of Māori and wanted to try something new. When the students arrive at the school, they map out a career plan based on a sport and education pathway and that becomes the picture they constantly go back to if things get tough. It’s about having an individualised learning programme where the teachers act as facilitators rather than in front of the classroom as traditional teachers.
Tai Wānanga Ruakura in Hamilton opened up at the start of the year. It is a tikanga Māori-based secondary school with a focus on technology and innovation where students exercise before class each day. The school consists of one open-plan room which comes with break-out areas while students also have access to tennis and squash courts, a swimming pool, a library and training gym facilities. The school is open to non-Māori, and has a vision that would see it produce confident and growing leadership.
"Maori leadership is at risk for the short to medium term because we have so many of our teenagers who have left school without qualifications."
"Our main criteria had nothing to do with academic ability but it had a lot to do with students who actually want to be here and be a part of that kaupapa [vision] we deliver."
I was fortunate to be chosen to sit on the New Zealand Māori Youth Council and we identified a number of key recommendations to help raise the educational achievement of Māori. The first suggestion targets pre-service teachers to complete a level 1 te reo Māori and a Māori Education/Tikanga course at a tertiary institution. A greater understanding and use of the Māori language in the classroom will help strengthen relationships with Māori students. Schools also need to stop taking a ‘one size fits all approach’ to education and strengthen community relationships. What makes Kura Kaupapa Māori successful for example is that whānau are involved in all facets of the running of the school including curriculum planning, staffing and management of the school. I would like to especially see iwi with their settlement money play a more proactive role in supporting Māori students and their whānau by setting up breakfast clubs, after-school and weekend homework centres, teaching local Māori history in schools and providing financial assistance for struggling families.
I want to share with you all something that changed my life – learning Japanese. When I was younger, I grew up in a rural farming community which there were very few non-Māori and non-Pākehā living there. As a 12 year old, we had an exchange student visit our school and stay in our modest home for two weeks. I would like to think that those two weeks changed how my life would eventuate. Even though it was a short visit, I was blown away from learning about this 16 year old Japanese boy who came from a large city of 9 million people. I loved everything about what I learnt in those two weeks, the sound of the Japanese language, the awkward looking script and the cooking! As a result of that short visit, I studied Japanese for five years through the correspondence school and a month after finishing my Year 13 Japanese exam, I gained a scholarship to Japan. Japanese was the subject where I gained my best grades which was rather odd because it was the only subject which I did by correspondence. I carried on with my Japanese at Waikato University where I majored in Japanese and Māori in my Bachelor of Arts component as I completed a conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching degree. Learning another language was beneficial in that it challenged my own beliefs and assumptions. It made me stronger in my own identity and it also assured me that Māori need to create and build relationships with other global communities if we want to grow and prosper.
Although New Zealand depends for its economic well-being on increasing trade with non-English speaking countries and growing numbers of non-English speaking immigrants moving to New Zealand, it sadly still remains one of the most monolingual countries in the world, where we are considered a “country of foreign language illiterates”.
I am a strong advocate for compulsory te reo Māori in our primary, intermediate and at Year 9/10 at secondary school level. Young kids of all ethnicities love learning Māori and develop good learning habits. We need to normalise the use of te reo Māori in our communities and foster positive attitudes towards learning the indigenous language of this country. Our children are the future leaders of our country so improving the understanding between our cultures is vital for the future success of our nation.
There also has been recent press coverage about providing breakfast and lunches to our most vulnerable school communities. We are witnessing increasing numbers of numbers of students who are hungry and struggling to concentrate at school. We always talk about Finland having a world-class education system. For the last 60 years, schools in Finland have been providing every student in every school free meals. We need to start feeding our children so that they can achieve to their full potential.
Earlier in the year, I completed a Masters of Education degree that showcased a Kura Kaupapa Māori where it is compulsory for the students to learn Spanish from Year 1 to Year 13. It is an expectation that once they reach the senior school, there is a three month exchange to Mexico where they attend intensive Spanish language. Having interviewed a range of students, parents, teachers and the Principal of the community, it was amazing that these students have a point of difference that they are steeped in their Māoritanga and yet able to explore a much wider world by learning Spanish as they are encouraged to work to their full potential. The Spanish language programme is about exposing students to other cultures and to the world which makes them more secure in their Māori identity, and their own place in the world. One teacher noted that many children living in Europe learn up to four languages so it is achievable for children living in New Zealand. Many of the participants acknowledged their ancestors who were involved in the Māori Battalion during World War two who were well known for picking up languages easily and their legacy ensures that Māori are welcome in countries where their ancestors once served. A teacher spoke about Sergeant Haane Manahi of Te Arawa who served in the Māori Battalion, went to Italy and learnt the local language.
Education needs to be at the forefront of global aspirations for Māori. New Zealand Secondary schools need to strenuously prepare young Māori to tackle the world head on, and to actively participate on a world stage and that Māori will live in many different social and cultural contexts and should be able to easily move from one to the other. I am confident with fresh and new ideas that the next generation of Māori school leavers will realise their potential, set lofty goals and become strong leaders for their respective whānau, marae, hapū and iwi.
Nō reira, e rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā tātou katoa.