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Race Relations Commissioner Calls For Urgent Action To Pursue Compulsory Te Reo Māori In Schools

The Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has called for a five-year strategy for te reo Māori to be incorporated in schools as a core subject. 

Foon says as a life-long student and advocate of te reo Māori he recognises its value for the country going forward. “Te reo Māori has helped me build relationships within the communities I try to serve, and it has also assisted in connecting many diverse cultures and Māori.” 

The Commissioner wrote to the Education Minister, party leaders and others with vested interests in Māori affairs across parliament at the end of 2021 to make his concerns known. He wrote that the normalisation of te reo Māori would help address issues around Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the destructive effects of colonisation and structural racism by building empathy, understanding and ultimately allyship. Foon underlined that Te Tiriti responsibilities require the protection of taonga Māori, which includes te reo. He says the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also includes the right to revitalise, use and develop language for future generations. 

The commissioner hopes to continue to have discussions with parliamentarians on how to implement compulsory te reo Māori as a core subject up to at least Year 10. He says prioritising the language along with New Zealand’s history will help race relations in Aotearoa. “It is all about building a socially cohesive country where everyone is on the same page and unified in our approach to indigenous culture.” 

Foon believes there is appetite for such an approach to te reo with learning institutions full of both Māori and non-Māori wanting to learn the language. He says new migrants he has met are also often surprised to find that te reo Māori is not being taught in mainstream schools. 

The Commissioner understands resourcing and te reo Māori teaching stocks are an issue but he says if action is undertaken now and barriers are removed, over the next five years this could be overcome. “We have a generation of Māori speakers coming through – the talent pool is there, we just have to make teaching a more attractive proposition.” 

Foon says while he understands the current government is working towards strengthening Māori education, he believes their strategy lacks teeth in terms of tangible and urgent action.

© Scoop Media

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