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Māori educationalist not shocked by teacher bias

Māori educationalist not shocked by teacher bias

A Maori educationalist at Massey University is unsurprised at the results of recent research conducted by Hana Turner which shows a bias against Maori student achievement. These types of teacher attitudes, argues Te Rina Warren, a mathematics lecturer at Massey University, are prevalent in our schools and most Māori students will have experienced a teacher who undervalues them in the classroom. Turner’s research, which included questionnaires and interviews conducted with mathematics teachers, provides evidence that these types of teacher attitudes are not just a ‘figment of the imagination’, or a ‘Māori conspiracy theory of oppression’.

“The value of this research is that it brings to the forefront the assimilatory approaches to education that Māori have endured since 1814 and the early missionary schools” says Ms Warren. “From educating the natives as farmhands, to these research findings, the underlying sentiment remains the same – that Māori outcomes shall be marginalised and determined by others”.

95% of Māori children attend a mainstream school, making mainstream schooling a central focus for Māori achievement. As a compulsory curriculum subject, learning mathematical core competencies such as problem solving and analysis are essential skills that these Māori students will need and rely upon throughout the rest of their lives.

“It is critical that educational outcomes in these schools reflect social justice” highlights Ms Warren. “This can be difficult when cultural diversity is neglected in learning environments. While many mainstream educationalists would like to pretend that racism does not exist in the classroom, institutional racism is often a daily battle for Māori students”.

“The mispronunciation of Māori names is a clear example of this. The teacher expectations identified in Ms Turner’s study cannot be tolerated in our schools. This simple finding highlights the need for: quality teacher education, professional development, and more Māori teachers”.

“In an environment where positive educational projects such as Te Kotahitanga, Te Kauhua and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga are being disestablished, alongside the reorganisation of the New Zealand Teacher’s Council, Hana Turner’s research is a timely reminder that there is still a long way to go in order to advance Māori educational aspirations, and those of the nation” concludes Ms Warren.


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