Following the release last month of the National Education Learning Priorities (NELP) and the Tertiary Education Strategy, 2020-2025 (TES), TEU Te Uepū Māori members are pleased to see greater emphasis on te reo Māori and tikanga Māori in the document, but say more must be done to make the strategy live.

TEU welcomes greater recognition of the importance of tikanga, mātauranga and te reo Māori, together with a continued focus on reducing barriers for ākonga Māori and partnering with wānanga within the Government’s long-term strategic direction for tertiary education.

Te Uepū Māori members have voiced the need for t a clear plan for how te reo and tikanga Māori can be meaningfully incorporated into teaching, learning, and research if we are to ensure a genuine path to positive learning experiences and improved outcomes for tauira Māori.

For Sheeanda McKeagg, Te Uepū Māori member and Kaihautū Māori of the Library at Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa | Massey University, the objectives raise more questions than answers:

“The government can write as many words as they want around Te Tiriti and te reo Māori in the Strategy but who will implement these? The institutions will look to their Māori staff to do so. And how will success in these areas be measured? Courses in te reo Māori for senior leadership with no meaningful incorporation of tikanga and te reo Māori institution wide run the risk of becoming merely a box-ticking exercise”.

Tahi Brown, Te Uepū Māori member and Kaiako of the Bachelor of Primary Education at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa says it’s vital that the emphasis is on the promotion of both te reo and tikanga Māori, while meaningful inclusion can only come from strong leadership,

“Te reo and tikanga Maaori are like two sides of a coin spinning. If you concentrate on one the other falls to the ground. For the coin to spin you must focus on both sides equally.  Culture change starts from the leadership team. E tuu leadership team, tuu pono, tuu rangatira e!”

During the consultation phase of the TES drafting process, Te Uepū members proposed the Government’s numeric targets for recruiting and retaining ākonga Māori be extended to numeric targets for kaimahi Māori in order to ensure an increase and retaining of kaimahi in Māori staffing levels. A move in this direction will go a long way to enabling the aspirations of Māori, and TES objectives, to being realised.

While the TES places emphasis on valuing diversity in staffing, ultimately, meaningful change in incorporating te reo and tikanga Māori will only occur through a clear and deliberate plan co-designed with Māori – hapū, iwi, and ākonga and kaimahi Māori in the tertiary education sector.