Changing Māori educational experiences
Te Kotahitanga goes beyond improving cultural iconography in classrooms - it also requires teachers to incorporate pedagogy that is responsive to the culture of students; providing contexts for learning that are based on students' prior knowledge and experiences.
“When we looked at the, the experiences of non-engaged students and engaged students, and although their experiences are very similar, the engaged students did tell us that they had to leave who they were at the door. There’s been a common theme amongst Māori education for a long, long time isn’t it, is that to achieve in the system you had to be like a pākeha person. So the big challenge with Te Kotahitanga and any projects that are running under the umbrella of the, the Ka Hikitia Policy is to implement a means of enabling young Māori people to be themselves. Now, we’ve been through a process in the ‘70s and the ‘80s and we thought that what was involved there was building a marae at schools and having a programme called Taha Māori where you introduced Māori aspects into the curriculum. You essentially left the curriculum unchanged, you essentially left the relationships and interactions in the classroom unchanged. However, Te Kotahitanga is, is not about improving the amount of cultural messages that come along or improving the cultural iconography that’s, that’s represented on the walls or represented in the school. Although that is important, but what’s really important is the pedagogy in the classroom needs to be based upon being responsive to the culture of the child. What that means is, are the children able to bring their own experiences to the classroom and see that their experiences are legitimate and official and accepted and acceptable in the classroom. And if you can bring who you are into the classroom, then if you’re Māori, you’ll be able to be part of the learning process as Māori.”