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Rahui Katene: Estimates Debate 2011 Vote Education

Estimates Debate 2011 Vote Education

Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga
Wednesday 9 August 2011

The Maori Party is pleased to take a call today, to address the estimates for Vote Education - and in particular to address the advice from the report of the education and science committee regarding charters.

The committee's report advises that about two thirds of primary and intermediate schools have submitted valid charters; and that the Secretary for Education has written to schools that have not submitted charters, requiring the information that must be legally provided under section 144a of the Education Act 1989.

At the risk of reverting to legalese, I want to highlight the significance of charters for every school and indeed, every community and our nation as a whole.

The charter is the legal instrument between a board and the Minister that outlines how they will give effect to the National Education Guidelines and all that falls under them. This includes the New Zealand Curriculum which is what I want to refer to in my korero today.

The charter is a key report for every community, which outlines the direction schools want to take, and the plan they have to get there. It is critical to lifting performance where required and provides a plan which enables every student to achieve.

Well that's how it is meant to work in theory.

But actually what we find in practice makes for depressing reading.

And I am particularly saddened by a recent Education Review Office which tells us that the performance of far too many schools across key principles of the curriculum is less than it could be.

The report, Directions for Learning, reveals that the least evident principles were Treaty of Waitangi, cultural diversity, coherence and future focus.

And I read two key lines from that report:

"It would be useful for schools to gain a more comprehensive view of the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi for school policy and practice. It would also be useful for schools to develop their understanding about the nature of the Treaty of Waitangi and cultural diversity principles".

Mr Speaker, last Tuesday I released a private members bill to ensure that any person signing up to any oath set out in statute may elect to state that they will uphold the Treaty of Waitangi. The rationale behind the bill is to recognise that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document and the Government is committed to fulfilling its obligations as a Treaty partner.

Every school has an opportunity to lift up to the promise of the Treaty, to make Treaty understanding and cultural awareness come alive in their classrooms.

And I want to highlight the significance also of the relationship to cultural competency.

Learning to understand and value one's own cultural base is an important step towards being able to respect and value other peoples.

That is why the Maori Party has been promoting, in every sector that we can, the importance of cultural diversity associated with factors of quality and excellence.

In the ERO report it tells us that where there was evidence that schools were thinking about the principle of cultural diversity into their curriculum, students had opportunities to celebrate some of their cultural practices and to share knowledge of these with other students.

By contrast, where this principle was not highly evident, there was little acknowledgment of students' cultural heritage in school programmes and in the school environment.

Perhaps the most sobering statement in the whole report is that a more inclusive approach to curriculum management would make learning more relevant for students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Mr Speaker, this is exactly why we need to keep a vigilant overview on schools submitting charters, so that we can see exactly how much progress is being achieved towards make learning relevant and meaningful to all students.

Mr Speaker, because Pakeha culture is so strong and secure it can sometimes be taken for granted. One might ask, can a fish describe the sea it swims in?

Cultural competency recognises there are many seas feeding in to our global oceans. We must respect the unique cultural framework that each bring to the mix, and there is no better place to do that, than in our schools.

Na reira, tena koutou katoa.

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