Saturday, December 4

Students Struggling to Retain Maori Fluency After Changing Schools

Some young people are struggling to maintain their fluency in Maori te reo after transitioning from kōhanga reo or kura kaupapa to regular schools. The shortage of Maori language teachers is making the move even more challenging.

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Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Imagine growing up just speaking Maori.

Everyone you know speaks it too: your parents, your teachers, your friends.

Then suddenly it changes, you enter an environment where no one can speak your language.

That is what happened to Maraenui Te Wano.

“We moved to Auckland and that’s when I started to lose my prisoner. It just had no use. No one spoke Maori. There was no one who spoke Maori in my elementary and middle school, not even in high school,” he said.

“None of the teachers really encouraged him, the only teachers who encouraged him were the Maori teachers.”

The former Taumarunui local spent his early education at kōhanga reo and at home school. Both parents speak Te Reo Maori and used the language at home. If he wasn’t speaking to you, he was speaking to you there, he was speaking it in his marae.

So learning in a new language was a challenge. But it was not the only obstacle he encountered.

“There was a bit of stigma for being Maori in a Pākehā school, which shaped my whakaaro about being Maori and learning Maori. My whakaaro was quite rangirua (confused) at the time. I was very confused with my identity and who I was. me.

“I have seen very good examples of Maori, but all these people tell me that we are these bush Maori, that we are not qualified and we are not very intelligent. I did not want to speak Maori because none of them would understand it. And they would probably sacrifice me.”

It took Te Wano years to rebuild her sense of cultural identity and unlearn the discrimination she faced at school. You are now enrolled in Te Wānanga or Takiura, a full immersion Maori te reo program in Auckland, to further increase this confidence and develop your te reo awareness.

But her experience and struggle to enter middle school in English is one of many.

The president of the Association of Secondary Principals, Vaughan Couillault, acknowledged that many secondary schools were not equipped to provide students of similar backgrounds with a high level of Maori language learning.

“Being able to find staff to teach at that level is really difficult. My school has been in that situation, where we have had students who have come to us from full immersion programs and their skills are exceptional in terms of the Maori language.”

“I don’t think there is a lack of will or will in any school anywhere in the country. What is difficult is finding staff to do what you want to do. Finding that alignment between language skills and the desire to teach is a challenge.”

He said that a chronic shortage of Maori language teachers persisted and that retaining them was difficult because they were in high demand.

To 2019 National survey of primary schools encountered the same problem, with more principals reporting difficulties finding Maori language teachers than in 2016.

One-fifth of the principals worked closely with the local kōhanga reo or puna reo to support the transition of students, but only half of them said that these children could continue to learn Maori reo te at a high level of immersion in school. .

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Photo: Supplied

Maori language commissioner Professor Rawinia Higgins said schools struggling to find teachers could still normalize tea by encouraging students to do kōrero.

“You need to find opportunities for people to use the language. So making sure they can use the language as often as possible is a key part of helping develop proficiency,” he said.

“Everyone is on a different trajectory when it comes to Maori te reo and is finding ways to support people at different points in their language journey to make sure they feel comfortable and confident enough to be able to use it in more forums. wide “.

Former broadcaster Te Kuru or te Marama Dewes, a graduate of the prestigious Te Panekiretanga Maori language academy, also moved to a kura kaupapa middle-level English high school.

He said that while he was much less exposed to Maori tea at Western Heights High School than before, the school nurtured his cultural identity and was able to maintain his fluency.

“There was a strong taha Māori in the kura, there is a rūmaki unit there. Although I was not in the rūmaki unit in my early years, I was able to establish those relationships.

“It was a much more limited exposure to the prisoner for being in total immersion, but enough to keep me engaged.”

Dewes comes from a long line of Maori te reo exponents who led some of the country’s most important language movements, including the establishment of kura kaupapa.

But he said it was the responsibility of all schools to support the growth and retention of Maori tea among students, not just the full-immersion kura.

“At my school at the time, in Western Heights, because I was enrolled in Maori language classes that kept me engaged and reinforced my Maori language learning journey. But for all my classmates who weren’t learning Maori as a subject, they had no exposure to it.

“There definitely has to be a conscious effort in the schools to not only give the children the haka and the waiata, but also give them some history about the inmate, some context, some structure that they can build on.”

That is the challenge and the demand is there.

The number of students learning Reo Maori tea in English middle schools has increased every year since 2015.

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