Waitangi Tribunal report says Maori language still weak

There seems to be a steady stream of reports circulating in the news and newspapers nowadays about the weakening and potential demise of te reo Māori. The following clip is just one of three to feature on Te Karere in the past week or so with others in the papers.

For me, in all these reports, the main issues are 1- funding, 2- management processes of organisations, 3- government initiatives, 4- te reo Māori teachers (qualified), 5- commitment to Treaty articles, 6- establishing iwi based initiatives for their own language revitalization, 7- iwi involvement on a national level and 8- a complex challenge to the nation to speak te reo in their homes. Each issue, of course, will come with its positive and negative aspects both idiosyncratically and collectively and therefore will need to be analysed extensively under the critical lens of scrutiny in both these contexts and in terms of their relationships to each other. Of course, it will be impossible to discuss all these matters here in any detail, but will be the subject of further research.

The issue, that I always advocate is of course the ‘teacher’ and since I have expressed some thoughts on this area in previous posts and will continue to do so, it will suffice to say that there is a great pool of teachers in the NZ education sector as I type, the issue for me is providing teacher education, professional development and basic to advance training in principles of language teaching and learning for teachers of te reo who wish to develop knowledge and skills in these areas. An even greater challenge will be to identify Maori language teachers who already specialize in these areas with the possibility of setting up a collaborative network in order to share knowledge, skills, ideas concerns and solutions.

There are many questions and inquiries to ask and answers to explore on the part of teachers, students, iwi, hapū, whānau, and tangata. The following comments, which featured on the Kōrero Māori face-book site highlighted various thoughts by individuals and groups concerning current issues facing te reo Māori. In this particular case, making te reo Maori compulsory in main stream schools (names withheld):

“I would like to see more resources and support for parents whose reo isn’t very strong but want their kids in kura and rumaki. advice and strategies to use and professionals u can talk to about supportin your kids learning at home”

“Perhaps there should be a compulsion for schools to provide Maori for those whose families opt for it….so that there are provisions in most schools for specialist Maori classes for students that really want to learn. Some basic introductory lessons for all children wuld also be a good thing”

“This has always been my dream – every child should be given the opportunity to learn Te reo from the age of 5 – aim for the stars I day”

“As for te reo, I think it will do well in the education system as a primary medium for teaching and learning, it’s certainly well overdue. The issue of trained and professional teachers in language teaching and learning always comes to the forefront for me and will be a critical part in the overall strategic plan for Maori language development”

“We need a National Māori Language Plan”

Te Reo Maori as a primary language in schools is just one goal. So, how can we achieve this and many other issues related to te reo? A good starting point may include the following: collaboration among the elders and professionals locally and nationally (even internationally) would be the first step. Addressing and finding solutions for those issues of a high priority would logically follow. Putting the best solutions into actions would be the next step and ongoing teacher education and professional development over time is a must.

The above process should be done …line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little in a forum that invites and nurtures wisdom, patience, honesty, open-minded discussion, intellectual and scholarly conversation that will provide the guiding principles for meaningful solutions and outcomes. There will be more said, but most importantly, there must be better quality, not necessarily more, action in these matters.

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