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About Te Kotahitanga

Ngaruawahia Russell BIshop 03

Te Kotahitanga is a research and professional development programme that:

  • supports teachers to improve Māori students' learning and achievement, enabling teachers to create a culturally responsive context for learning which is responsive to evidence of student performance and understandings
  • enables school leaders, and the wider school community, to focus on changing school structures and organisations to more effectively support teachers in this endeavour.

More than 30 years ago when Russell Bishop first started teaching at Mana College in Porirua, he was struck by a single question: Why did so many Māori students start out well, but still fail as they went through school?

For some, the phenomenon (over 40% of Māori leave school without formal qualifications) might seem too familiar to bear scrutiny. "But I was amazed," Russell says. "I knew their families, they had strong marae connections and were well steeped in their culture. I kept asking why these kids were bombing out so badly."

For Russell the question never quite went away. Now Professor of Māori Education at the University of Waikato, in 2001 he led a study where 70 year nine and ten students were closely interviewed along with their whānau, principals and 80 teachers in five secondary schools around the North Island. What he has discovered is a surprisingly hidden challenge and a new approach that is already showing good gains.

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