The passing of the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill on 19 February 2020 has formalised the process of creating a strong, unified, sustainable vocational education and training system with greater emphasis on reflecting Te Tiriti o Waitangi, promoting equity and supporting tauira Māori.

The Bill states the NZIST will be responsive to the needs of all regions of New Zealand and will hold inclusivity and equity as core principles.

TEU members have long argued for a stronger focus on Te Tiriti relationships, inclusive and accessible education, and a response to diversity of need in the sector. This can be seen in Te Kaupapa Whaioranga and Changing Lives.

It is encouraging to see the Charter setting out that the new national vocational network must operate in a way that allows it to meet the needs in particular of those who are under-served by the education system, including, but not limited to, Māori, Pacific, and disabled learners.

For Jael Reiri, TEU member and Kaitiaki Māori/Lecturer at Te Aho a Māui | Eastern Institute of Technology, these inclusions provide significant aspirations for achieving equity and improved education outcomes for Māori, but in order for there to be meaningful change, practical steps must be taken by the institution,

“This is a positive step for the promotion of equity for Māori, but this is just a first step. I would like to see Te Tiriti o Waitangi interwoven throughout not only policy, but degrees and certificates. We need to make sure Te Tiriti and te reo Māori are not taught in isolation from other subjects. I think we know where we are headed with Te Ao Māori - we have kōhanga, kura, wharekura, and wānanga, but we currently often see our reo and Te Ao Māori outside of these spaces taught and practiced in isolation”.

Reiri continued, “To realise the aspirations for Māori set out in the Charter, Te Tiriti must also become normalised across education. I would hope that staff within the sector are encouraged to engage with Te Tiriti in meaningful ways, particularly where there are requirements to give effect to its principles. The sector always looks to Māori for guidance on Te Tiriti, but this is a partnership and it requires us working together – Māori and Pākehā – on our Tiriti relationship to meet these goals”.