The Whānau Hauora Village was based on a Māori health framework – Te Whare Tapa Whā – thus providing a culturally appropriate basis for its work.
The Whānau Hauora Village was explicitly set up to address barriers to primary healthcare accessibility and treatment for Māori.
All organisations came together under the same kaupapa, bearing the same uniforms and branding.
A welcoming, comfortable atmosphere was created. Staff within the tent were recognised as critical to creating this atmosphere, and critical to the success of the Whānau Hauora Village. Care was taken to look after the staff.
The evaluation report provides comprehensive information about Whānau Hauora Village, how it was set up, what worked well, and recommendations for next time. The implementation of an evaluation process contributes to recognising the success of the project and providing for continued improvement and efficacy.
At the time of writing, there have been three invitations to take the Whānau Hauora Village to other large-scale community celebrations across New Zealand. These invitations demonstrate the success of the project and interest from communities throughout the country. Future Whānau Hauora Villages have, however, been put on hold while further decisions are yet to be made about planning and resources. The evaluation concludes with the whakatauki:
Kua tawhiti ki to tatou haerenga, ki te kore e haere tonu
He tino nui rawa a tatou mahi, kia kore e mahi nui tonu
We have come too far not to go further
We have done too much not to do more.
(Ta Hemi Henare, Ngāti Hine, 1989)123
Despite numerous government initiatives, Māori and Pacific peoples continue to experience significant disadvantage in terms of educational outcomes. This section will draw connections between some of the persistent ethnic inequalities in the education sector and structural discrimination, and considers early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Participation in Early Childhood Education for Pacific children is improving. However, Pacific new entrants at school still have the lowest prior participation rates in Early Childhood Education at 85.3 per cent compared with 98.1 per cent for Pākeha children, 96.7 per cent for Asian children and 89.4 per cent for Maori children.124
In the area of compulsory education, Pacific expulsion rates are four times higher than for Pākehā students. The suspension rate for Māori students is three times higher than for Pākehā students.125 Approximately 50 per cent of Māori students leave school without any educational qualifications, compared to 21 per cent of the overall population.126
In the tertiary sector, while the number of Māori students gaining university entrance has increased from 2004 to 2008, the gap between the number of Māori and non- Māori gaining university entrance has actually widened.127 Māori enrol in tertiary education in lower numbers than other groups. Of all ethnic groups, Pacific people have the smallest proportion of degrees or higher qualifications. In 2006, the overall English literacy and numeracy of the adult Pacific population was lower than that of other ethnic groups. Pacific people are about half as likely as the total population to achieve a higher-level qualification by the age of 25. They are only a third as likely to achieve a bachelor’s degree by this age.128
As in other areas, the gaps in educational achievement between Māori, Pacific and Pākeha students is still sometimes explained using a deficit theory approach – that is, that the students themselves lack innate ability or have poor concentration and so on – despite research that discredits this. Many who we interviewed in the education sector believe it is time to address some of the structural elements that may be connected to these disparities. We heard that “deficit theorising shuts down any other conversation about structural factors that impact Māori students” and that structural discrimination is the “elephant in the room” when talking about ethnic inequalities.
Moving away from deficit theory approaches means not looking at Māori and Pacific students as the problem, but rather examining the structures and systems as key contributors to educational inequity. A recent University of Auckland described the faulty definition of “the problem” in a recent paper: “our Pasifika children’s history of low achievement in the New Zealand educational system ... is not the children’s failure but the failure of the educational system.” The researchers go on to point out that educational policies targeting Pacific “low levels of literacy,” actually refer to low levels of English literacy. These policies therefore do not acknowledge the importance of bilingual/multilingual education and the multilingual homes of many Pacific students.129
The Ministry of Education has developed Ka Hikitia-Managing for Success as a core strategy to raise the performance of the education system for Māori learners. This strategy provides a framework for system wide change and a basis for conversations about the nature of structural discrimination in the educational system and how these can be addressed. An interviewee we spoke with clarified that one of the key premises of Ka Hikitia is that the system is failing Māori students, not that Māori students are failing the system.
Educationalist Paul D. Goren made observations and commentary on the initial implementation of Ka Hikitia in a 2009 report. He noted the positive work underway to serve the needs of Māori learners, respecting culture, identity and language. He also commented on the challenge faced:
The challenge with a policy framework like Ka Hikitia is to change attitudes, thinking, and behaviours in order to improve outcomes for all Māori learners. This means changing hearts and minds rather than solely instituting new compliance requirements. There have been attempts to change Ministry organisational processes to reflect key Ka Hikitia components in areas such as business planning and report writing. Yet, there is concern that Ka Hikitia will evolve into a compliance tick list rather than a broad commitment to improve education for and with Māori learners. The challenge in an organisation like the Ministry is to engage in processes that change attitudes, thinking, and behaviours rather than forcing compliance, while adhering to timelines that meet urgent priorities.130
In many cases, intervention programmes aimed at addressing educational achievement are implemented for all students. Such programmes are founded in notions of egalitarianism and are expected to work equally well for all students regardless of ethnic or cultural background. When such race-neutral policies and programmes are implemented, it is difficult to assess the impact on Māori or Pacific student achievement, as separate data is often not collected.131 Such approaches overlook the reality that some ethnic groups are starting from a marginalised position created through structural discrimination. In our interviews we have heard this described as a “one size fits all” approach, where the one size to fit all is based on the cultural values of the dominant group.
Significant shifts away from this model are being pursued through the redesign of the professional development provision currently being implemented by the Ministry of Education. All procured professional development now has an explicit focus on meeting the needs of Māori, Pasifika and learners with special education needs. This will be enacted through a strong and explicit focus on “identity, language and culture.”
A “one size fits all” approach in education, particularly within mainstream schools, may unintentionally disadvantage Māori and Pacific students by not acknowledging the Pākehā point of reference at the foundation of the educational system. In a recent paper, South Auckland school principal, Anne Milne, uses the analogy of a colouring book to describe the normalised nature of dominant culture world views and practices in education systems. She explains that in a colouring book, where the “blank” spaces on the page are considered empty to be coloured in, “we don’t often consider the fact that it is already coloured in—with white. White is the ‘invisible’ colour, because it’s just ‘there as the whole background.”132 Milne describes mainstream schools as “white spaces” that reflect the white spaces present in society where a set of rules and practices dictate “whose knowledge is important, what success looks like, what achievement matters, how the space is organised and who has the power.”
To address structurally-biased systems, some researchers have suggested that school environments should develop culturally-responsive practices and policies. Such practices include the use of cultural frameworks that acknowledge and legitimise Māori and Pacific students, how they engage and make sense of the world as different from Pākehā students.133 In our interviews, people have advocated for practices and policies that are both culturally appropriate and culturally responsive. That is, validating Māori cultural values, settings, tikanga, but also building relationships with Māori whānau and community, changing the curriculum to incorporate students’ heritage and cultural frameworks, asking students for their perspective (rather than assuming) and being informed by whānau.
Research has found that schools which have been effective in increasing student and whānau engagement had a school climate where te ao Māori (a Māori perspective) was recognised, respected and valued.134 The Te Kotahitanga programme is one initiative that develops culturally-responsive practices and policies in schools. This programme is discussed in the case-study following this systemic analysis.
The Education Review Office has found that schools that have developed initiatives specific to Māori and Pacific needs and cultural ways of being are actually more effective in building relationships and enhancing student achievement.135Acknowledging and identifying Māori and Pacific student needs and developing programmes specific to those needs, rather than looking at the student population as a homogenous group, yields more effective results in enhancing student achievement.
It is also important to note the critical interplay between poverty and children’s ability to fully engage in education. Socio-economic factors including poverty play a key role in determining inequitable educational outcomes. The Household Economic Survey of 2008 showed that 20 per cent of New Zealand children lived in relative poverty. The Commission’s Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 report notes that students from low socio-economic communities are less likely than others to attain higher school qualifications. The NCEA level 1 pass rate at the poorest 30 per cent of secondary schools is only two-thirds that of the wealthiest 30 per cent of schools.136 The fact that Māori and Pacific peoples are disproportionately represented in lower socio-economic communities makes them particularly susceptible to the impacts of structural discrimination.
A 2011 report by the Child Poverty Action Group – Hunger for Learning - draws a connection between poverty, nutrition and children’s educational performance, There is a growing body of research that points to the links between access to good quality food and improved school attendance, engagement and performance. These linkages illustrate the connected nature of socio-economic factors and systemic barriers to equality across several sectors, including health, education and the economy.
Some research suggests that in order to truly change inequitable outcomes, we must challenge Eurocentric solutions to educational achievement and acknowledge the role of Pākehā/white privilege in maintaining unjust systems.137 Milne comments:
Whiteness and white privilege are central to the conversations we must have to effect real change for non-white children in our school system.138
Milne explains that the primary focus of current educational reform policy is on raising literacy and numeracy levels and improving national qualifications results: “these initiatives largely persist in seeing the white space as neutral and the goal is to raise Māori and Pasifika students’ achievement to ‘national norms.’ She challenges the Pākehā/white norm as neutral and objective and stresses the need to shift the problematic and Eurocentric assumptions underlying educational paradigms and present day school improvement initiatives.
Tertiary institutions have a significant part to play in increasing participation and achievement of Māori and Pacific students. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and Statistics New Zealand have reported:
in 2006, only half of tertiary education organisations report that they were developing relationships with Pacific communities. Most of these organisations were focused on attracting more Pacific students and few on understanding and addressing the needs and aspirations of the community. There is significant room for improvement.139
Where tertiary institutions have a presence in underrepresented communities – for example, at career expos for secondary students and by developing relationships with community groups – there is much greater potential to create a sense of accessibility. Creating a supportive environment is also important for tertiary institutions to ensure existing students feel supported and engaged in tertiary life.140
Most research and education policy points to the importance of looking to early education and primary school, as opposed to later years, in order to address systemic inequalities between ethnic groups. Russell Bishop, Professor of Māori Education at the University of Waikato, points out that “[w]hile these negative outcomes are most clearly exhibited in high schools, the foundations for these problems commence in the elementary or primary school years.”141 In other words, it is important to start early. Many of those we interviewed echoed this point: waiting until the senior secondary or university levels to address educational inequalities for Māori and Pacific students in particular, is often too late and interventions at these levels are less likely to be effective or sustainable. Nonetheless, effective programmes have been introduced, including Te Kotahitanga discussed in the case-study below.
Researcher Stuart Middleton provides a compelling argument for why educational success for Māori and Pacific students is critically connected to the educational success for all New Zealand students:
The proportion of students coming from backgrounds that lead to high achievement is shrinking while the number of students coming from backgrounds classed as low-decile continues to grow. If New Zealand does not address the achievement of those at the bottom of the pile, its international standing will not survive at a high level ... New Zealand won’t have a successful education system until it is successful for Māori and Pasifika learners.142