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Model solution for teaching Te Reo gains momentum

Model solution for teaching Te Reo in our schools gains momentum

Support is rapidly growing for the compulsory teaching of Te Reo Maori in New Zealand schools, and a group of enthusiasts from Auckland’s North Shore, Te Reo Tuatahi believe they have the answer: an existing model of language teaching that is already supported by the Ministry of Education.

The model being referred to is the mandarin language assistant model which is already running in a significant number of our urban schools with some schools entering their third year. The mandarin language assistants are fluent in both English and Mandarin. They rotate around all the classrooms in each school so that every child or as many as possible get 30 minutes of mandarin taught to them every week.

Appearing on Campbell Live on Tuesday, Raewyn Harrison, a spokesperson for Te Reo Tuatahi says “The defining point of this model is that the language assistant does not have to be a qualified teacher however their lessons are supervised by the classroom teacher”. Historically not having qualified teachers who could teach Maori has been one of the major obstacles for getting Te Reo taught in our schools. If this model can be done for mandarin then I see no valid reason why it cannot be done for Te Reo. In our small Maori community on the North Shore we have native speakers, fluent speakers, ex-kohanga kaiako (Maori pre-school teachers) as well as Te Ataarangi graduates who would be excellent candidates for te reo language assistants in our local schools “.

The mandarin language assistant model is set up and run by the Confucius Institute from China who resource and finance the language assistants in New Zealand. “From information we have obtained though we know that nearly 30 mandarin language assistants appear to be supported financially by our own Ministry of Education. We are not out to discredit the mandarin model but if the Ministry of Education can give financial support for other languages to go into our schools then why not Te Reo? This is happening on their watch and the fact that they have never considered or sought to adopt a similar model for Te Reo is extremely disappointing”.

Brenda McPherson, Principal of Windy Ridge School has participated in the Glenfield cluster programme which has been running for at least 2 years and believes it is a model that would translate very well to Te Reo. “With 90 per cent of Maori children still attending mainstream schools and many of them not having access to Te Reo in the home or anywhere else for that matter we need to seriously consider introducing this model. Money is already allocated towards the promotion of Maori language in New Zealand perhaps it could be simply a process of reallocating this money to fund the te reo language assistant model in as many schools as possible”.

A significant number of principals from Auckland’s North Shore support the introduction of Te Reo in schools under the same model as the mandarin language assistant model and this number is expected to grow rapidly across the country as this proposal is promoted.

Raewyn Harrison believes that there needs to be a critical mass learning Te Reo. “We need to start turning this around and we need to start now. Not make it yet another 5 or 10 year strategy. The mandarin language model demonstrates how easy it is to do. I don’t think there is any other model out there that comes close to this that would allow Te Reo to be so easily accessible and available to all New Zealand kids. This of course would include the large percentage of Maori kids who are missing out on learning the basics of their own language”.

Te Reo Tuatahi said they were prompted to form after watching Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, being interviewed on The Nation in April this year. During the interview he commented that he supported the view that every child in New Zealand from the age of five should be learning Te Reo in school.

Te Reo advocate and wife of the legendary Buck Shelford Jo Shelford makes the comment, “Having lived and travelled extensively with my family overseas, speaking Te Reo as much as possible while learning our host language and culture made us uniquely Kiwi and I felt accepted into international communities that much easier”.

“There’s been a lot of talk over many years about introducing te reo into New Zealand schools, and during Maori Language week Minister of Maori Affairs, Dr Pita Sharples, has acknowledged that ‘an overall strategy is needed to save Te Reo’, ” said Mrs Harrison. “With the solution in the form of an existing, proven model of language teaching, the time is right for action rather than words.”


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