Whanau (extended family) Structures as an Innovative Intervention into Maori Educational and Schooling CrisesThe Family: Our Hopes and Challenges
Roseberry: Association for Baha'i Studies Australia, 1995
Abstract: This paper examines the development of an innovative response by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand to the dual crises of Maori educational underachievement on the one hand and to the loss of Maori language, knowledge and culture on the other. In particular this paper considers the critical intervention and change role played by 'Kaupapa Maori' theory and practice, the significant component of which is centred on the use of traditional and contemporary notions of 'whanau' (extended family) values, practices and structures.
Since 1982 Maori people have developed several alternative education innovations within a variety of educational sites from pre school (Te Kohanga Reo), primary schools (Kura Kaupapa Maori) and secondary schools (Whare Kura), through to the tertiary institution level (Whare Waananga). All of these initiatives have been based on 'Kaupapa Maori' as the underlying philosophy and practice of change and intervention.
These educational and schooling 'resistance initiatives' (c.f. Giroux 1983, 72) have developed not only as 'proactive' measures concerned for the revitalisation of Maori language, knowledge and culture, they are also 'reactive' responses to an increasing disillusionment by Maori of state schooling, the result of a growing critical appreciation of Pakeha dominant schooling. In this latter sense there has been a political penetration of the structural impediments entrenched within state schooling that maintain the inequalities suffered by disproportionate numbers of Maori pupils as an outcome of their state schooling experience. For example the structural role of unequal power relations, the structural role of ideology and hegemony and the structural role of class positioning, are increasingly being recognised and confronted by Maori. This emerging critical consciousness, associated with the emotionally charged issues surrounding the continuing assimilation of Maori language and culture, and the deepening educational crises related to the high and disproportionate levels of Maori underachievement have given significant momentum to the Kaupapa Maori praxis as a strategy for change.
Introduction: Maori Demographic Overview
In the 1991 census approximately 431,000 people, approximately 13% of the total population, declared themselves to be of Maori descent. In comparative terms the Maori population is very much younger on average than the non-Maori population. The census of 1991 for example, revealed that 37% of Maori were under fifteen years of age as against 23% of the total population. At the other end of the scale, only 4% of the Maori population was over sixty years of age as compared to 15% of the total population.
Since the end of the second world war, the average life expectancy for Maori has improved markedly more than it has for non-Maori. Although Maori fertility has shown a decline in the same period, it is significant that in 1990, 53% of Maori births were to women under the age of 25.
The long term projection for the Maori population is that it will increase from 431,000 (1991) to about 867,000 by the year 2031. These figures are based on the current growth rates of 1% per year. The salient point here is that, despite this apparent slow rate of growth, the Maori population will increase twice as fast as the non-Maori population.
In 1990, Maori children made up 19% of the total schooling population despite the Maori population as a whole only constituting 13% of the total New Zealand population. In 1990, for every 100 Maori who began third form study only 15 went on to 7th form. This compares with the non-Maori figures where 40 students went on to 7th form. In the same year, 11% of Maori primary pupils attended a bilingual class or a Kura Kaupapa Maori. By 1991 this figure had increased to 13%.
In 1990, 68% of non-Maori students left school with Sixth form certificate or higher school certificate, while only 36% of Maori students, mostly at the 'lower' Sixth form certificate level left with these qualifications. The number of Maori students who undertake higher educational study in tertiary institutions is also comparatively low although it is increasing slowly. In 1990, Maori made up 6% of all students attending University. Most were over the age of 25 years of age and 56% of the Maori students in this year were women.
Statistical analyses also reveal that a majority of these Maori pupils are trapped within a persistent educational and schooling crisis of underachievement. Policy attempts designed to alleviate this situation have generally not worked. A common feature of these policy initiatives is that they have almost always been developed by Pakeha people. Furthermore, given the unequal power relations between the dominant Pakeha and subordinate Maori communities, and the different political, cultural, social and economic interests which coalesce around these two groupings, it is little wonder that such policies (although often hegemonically perceived by Maori as emancipatory and acting in their best interests) continually fail to make a difference.
The underachievement of Maori within the state schooling examination system is alarmingly high and comparatively far worse than that for non-Maori performance. Scrutiny of the annual figures over the last ten years of these examination indicators shows that the educational gap between Maori and Pakeha is not improving, in fact it is widening. Official explanations of high and persistent 'Maori underachievement' frequently associate this phenomenon with the poor retention rates of Maori into higher levels of schooling. However, such a narrow view, often disguises and conceals more important critical questions that ought to be asked of the total system and its structures. In general, official explanations that Maori underachievement is 'inextricably linked' to retention is not only misleading, it also has the 'self-preserving' function of deflecting critical questions that challenge the legitimacy of the state structures. A more critical understanding ought to be developed from key question such as; 'Why aren't Maori opting to stay at school? Why is there a worse retention problem in relation to Maori than to other groups? Why aren't Maori aspirations catered for within curriculum offerings?'
Criticism of the state schooling system is diminished through the focus on the issue of retention. Such a diversion (re)locates the problem of Maori underachievement away from implicating the state, and on to Maori culture and Maori people themselves. Subsequently, state policy has tended to be created around 'victim blaming' explanations that emphasise the 'fault' as being within the Maori students themselves and within their associated social and cultural baggage. More critical questions related to the structural perspectives of what is taught (not taught), how it is taught (not taught), whose interests are being served (not served), what forms of evaluation are used (not used), and so on, are able to be conveniently avoided.
The underachievement of Maori in schooling therefore, ought not to be simply dismissed as a 'Maori' problem, whereby Maori pupils 'freely choose' to 'vote with their feet' and leave school early. It is a much more complex issue and must also be understood in terms of the structural impediments associated with Pakeha (non Maori) power and control. Pakeha power and control are able to be exerted through selective decision making, hegemonic influence, economic control, manipulation over resource allocation, exercising social and cultural preferences all conducted within a societal context of unequal power relations. The non retention of Maori within state schooling is symptomatic of a plethora of underlying problems that militate against Maori as they attempt to gain equality within the Pakeha dominant education system in particular, and within new Zealand society generally.
Kaupapa Maori as a Reaction to Educational Policy Failure
Very few Maori are 'successful' in the state education system if public examination results are used as the indicators of success. The ongoing educational crises that accrue to Maori as a result of the failure of educational policy makers to intervene in this situation, not only provide enormous embarrassment for the state, it has also developed into a crisis of credibility and legitimacy of the functioning of the state system. A point that should not be lost here is the fact that the state is overwhelmingly influenced by Pakeha politicians, Pakeha public servants, and Pakeha derived policies and decision making. These circumstances ultimately form multiple sites for the potential structural subordination of Maori interests. In this sense the submerged interests implicit within the functioning of the dominant Pakeha state in new Zealand ought to be exposed; that is, its tendency towards the production and reproduction of dominant Pakeha interests ought to be made overt and understood.
The crisis of legitimacy currently being experienced in new Zealand state schooling, is similar in form to other educational crises on a broader international front particularly in Britain and the United States. This crisis of 'legitimacy', 'confidence' and 'credibility' of the state can also be attributed to the impact of critical analyses of the education system by social policy analysts from both the Left and the Right who have been concerned to explain the failure of liberal policies and the persistence of inequalities as an outcome of liberal schooling conditions.
Prior to the 1960s, the non-educational achievement of Maori pupils was not a major political concern, and it was not until the Hunn Report of 1960 that these issues were centralised with the New Zealand context. Since the advent of the Hunn Report, New Zealand education has embarked on a series of official policy initiatives in an attempt to intervene in the Maori 'underachievement' crisis. These early interventions focused mostly on the negative features of the 'culture' of the Maori child, the Maori family, the Maori home and the Maori community as the locus of the 'problem'. This focus also produced a 'victim-blaming' orientation in both the research trends and the subsequent policy interventions developed from such research. In general, these responses to Maori educational crises have been an abysmal failure and have not made any significant impact on Maori underachievement.
During the 1970s and 1980s the research and policy focus began to shift from the Maori child and their cultural baggage as problematic, to an increased emphasis being placed upon the questioning of the system and its previously 'taken for granted' structures. For example critical inquiry was developed into the formerly unquestioned schooling icons of knowledge, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and evaluation, teachers and administration. These structures were interrogated against the unequal outcomes of schooling experience that disproportionately afflicted race, gender and class groups. This critical form of research inquiry built on the ground work established in the emerging field of study, generalised as the New Sociology of Education which was receiving renewed attention in Britain and the U.S. in the 1970s. Such critical inquiry into the 'system' is still relatively new within New Zealand (even in the 1990s) and it is too soon perhaps to assess the limitations and capacities of these approaches in overcoming persistent inequalities entrenched within schooling experience. However, it is this emphasis upon a critical inquiry of the system and its associated structures, although in its infancy, which has contributed to the legitimation crises faced by the state education system in new Zealand since the late 1970s. It must also be acknowledged however that the wider legitimation crisis of economic distribution in which schooling and education is located was partially precipitated by libertarian adherents who were interested in centralising free market and private enterprise across new Zealand society as a whole.
One of the obvious shortcomings of education research in new Zealand is that it has often been extreme, either tending towards deficit or deprivation theories, (that is, a 'victim blaming' orientation) or in more recent times, towards the other end of the scale, focusing solely on 'structural impediments'. Very little research or policy formation has been directed at a holistic response such as that which would take into consideration both ends of this continuum. In these terms more appropriate schooling policies for Maori ought to encompass a more 'balanced' intervention strategy, one which is able to work at several points along the continuum between these extremes, and as well, one which is able to incorporate where necessary both culturalist and structuralist considerations.
The emphasis on culturalist oriented responses has failed to overturn the problems related to Maori achievement in schooling because they have, for the most part failed to adequately account for wider structuralist concerns, for example:
'Kaupapa Maori' as a Theory of change
Kaupapa Maori as a theory of change has emerged as the underpinning philosophy and motivation within a range of alternative, Maori driven schooling and education structures. The term Kaupapa Maori encapsulates 'the Maori way of doing things; Maori control, Maori autonomy'. It also infers, by opposition, a critical perspective in regard to the politics of Pakeha dominance in New Zealand society. In this sense, Kaupapa Maori is at the same time both a proactive, 'self determination initiative' concerned for language and cultural survival, and also a reactive, 'resistance initiative' concerned to respond to Pakeha social, cultural, economic and political domination. Kaupapa Maori as a coherent philosophy and practice of social change was given a particular political shape within the context of alternative education and schooling structures, beginning with Te Kohanga Reo in 1982. However, Kaupapa Maori is not a recent phenomenon. It has appeared at various points in history long before its co option into the Te Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori resistance frameworks, being used to describe 'the Maori preferred way of doing things'. Nor does Kaupapa Maori belong exclusively to these particular educational initiatives or for that matter, within the framework of these particular interest groups. Kaupapa Maori has been articulated and used by a variety of Maori groups outside schooling and education to express Maori autonomy (tino rangatiratanga), Maori language and cultural aspirations and validity, Maori identity and Maori pedagogy. However, its very presence always works to challenge and critique Pakeha political, social, cultural and economic dominance.
These alternative educational sites of resistance, which incorporated 'Kaupapa Maori', began with Te Kohanga Reo (pre school, immersion Maori learning settings) in 1982. Since then, the development of this pre school movement has been both rapid and widespread. Currently there are in excess of seven hundred language nests with an average of approximately twenty children in each. Subsequently, there has also been a rapid growth in the total immersion primary schooling initiative called Kura Kaupapa Maori (Maori philosophy and practice; Maori medium schools). More recently we have seen the establishment of the first Maori medium secondary school (Whare Kura) and the emergence of three Whare Waananga (Maori tertiary institutions). All of these initiatives are based on 'Kaupapa Maori' philosophy and practice. Each of these schools and learning sites attempt to operate totally through the medium of Maori language and to emphasise Maori preferred learning and teaching strategies, values and knowledge. These schools also attempt to accommodate and to respond to the national curriculum guidelines as laid down by the Ministry of Education.
Many of these educational Kaupapa Maori initiatives were established in the first instance, outside of the state system as alternative educational settings. However, in more recent times many of these Kura Kaupapa Maori schools have re entered or are attempting to re enter the state schooling system out of financial necessity in order to access much needed monetary and resource support. This economic dependency engendered by the state on Maori communities inevitably allows the state to exert its structural power and to maintain its control, authority and dominance. In this way the state (ie. those who work for the state) are able to dissipate the crisis of the legitimacy of the state structures caused by communities opting out of the system. In more recent times we have seen the state attempting to devolve its responsibilities in education as free market ideology is systematically inserted within the education sector. In effect there has been a devolution of increased responsibility to the local community level but the ultimate power and control over the funding allocation has remained with the state.
Kaupapa Maori as a theory of change takes for granted the validity and legitimacy of Maori language, knowledge and culture. It incorporates Maori aspirations and needs in relation to language and cultural revitalisation; it also critically engages structural impediments faced by Maori in new Zealand society and concerned to protect Maori interests. So far, Kaupapa Maori as an organic theory of social change and resistance has achieved enough positive and successful results for it to continue to be popularly supported by increasing numbers of Maori people. Kaupapa Maori as a rallying 'cry' is now being successfully transposed and applied within other domains outside of education and schooling in order to develop interventions in other sites, for example within media, health, justice and tribal self development initiatives.
Of particular concern in this paper is the crucial role played by the notion of 'whanau' (extended family) in providing both a structural and pedagogical framework for Kaupapa Maori as a theory of change. In this sense the concept of whanau has several interpretations ranging across traditional and contemporary meanings. Whanau as a key intervention element within Kaupapa Maori is able to make sense of and mediate the intricate and complex, (at times contradictory), discourses which envelop Maori people attempting to maintain the viability and the legitimacy of their traditional cultural foundations in a contemporary context. This 'modern' context is often openly antagonistic to Maori as a result of Pakeha social, cultural, political and economic dominance.
Kura Kaupapa Maori
Kura Kaupapa Maori are total immersion Maori language and culture schooling options offered at the primary school level., They are one of many educational sites where 'Kaupapa Maori' as a theory and practice for social change has been applied by Maori groups. These schools are not to be confused with 'total immersion' schools such as the Welsh Medium school model or the French Canadian Bilingual or Immersion models. Kura Kaupapa Maori Schools involve much more than total immersion schooling within mother tongue language. They also operate within a specific cultural framework and mediate the unequal social, economic and cultural context of New Zealand society. Kura Kaupapa Maori Schools are uniquely Maori and develop new, and in some areas, more sophisticated structures and pedagogy than has been observable (in the writers experience at least) in other immersion type education models on the international scene. In this sense the 'Kaupapa Maori' development has much to offer on an international level to the general fields of alternative schooling, language revitalisation programmes and cultural and language schooling.
While the primary focus within Kura Kaupapa Maori is Maori language and culture through total immersion schooling, the ultimate goal for their children is bilingualism and biculturalism although formal moves to teach English language skills are not made until the children are ten to eleven years old and their Maori language is secure. The crucial point here is that some overseas research has shown that if children maintain a first language up until the age of nine or ten, it is highly likely that they will be able to sustain that language even when it ceases to be taught in a schooling situation (for further discussion on this matter see Ohia, M. 1993; Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, an M.Ed. thesis presented at Massey University). For the most part, the experience of Kura Kaupapa Maori children to date has shown that these pupils easily pick up English language through their everyday activities and experiences outside of the school; through their parents at home, through television and radio, through trips to the supermarket, through playing with other English speaking children, through road signs, through other Pakeha printed media and so on. The majority of Kura Kaupapa Maori children speak very good Maori and very good English. However it is recognised that formal English language skills such as reading in English, spelling, punctuation and writing in English need to be taught formally at some stage.
Significantly Kura Kaupapa Maori have also been able to successfully intervene within Maori homes through the whanau administrative structures which require parents to fully participate and support all of 'their' children (that is all the pupils) at the school. All parents within the whanau network are regarded as having a valued contribution to make. There is a 'cultural obligation' which commits parents to contribute to whanau management and support structures and to assist the 'group' in the collective education and nurturing of all of the children.
The cultural frameworks implicit within the notion of whanau provide an intervention into the wider social, economic and cultural impediments which are resident within the wider community but have traditionally militated against Maori success within education and schooling. A significant point here is that more educational policies which have been developed for Maori have neglected to take adequate account of the wider community influences and have tended to concentrate solely on the school end of things.
The whanau structure has been successful in undoing much of the deep-seated mistrust that many Maori parents themselves have had of the Pakeha education system given their own bad experiences of school. Many of these Maori parents who have been personally disaffected as a result of their own schooling relate details of how they were often the ones who were strapped for speaking Maori language in the playground, who spent many of their schooling hours standing in hall ways outside of classrooms, who could not connect with the culture of the school or of the curriculum. Many of these parents left school as soon as they were legally able. Thus problems have occurred when they themselves have become parents and who as a result of these bad experiences pass on negative views about schools, teachers and learning to their own children. In fact some state schools have enormous problems with Maori pupils and Maori parents who exhibit strong resistance behaviours to schools and education and who perceive state schooling as having little relevance to their needs and aspirations. For example this rejection of schooling is seen in the vandalising of school property such as graffiti and damage to desks, through not participating in school events, through high levels of truancy, through incidents of racial and cultural intolerance etc.
Kura Kaupapa Maori has completely turned many of these parents around to now being avid supporters of their children's education. Many of the Kura Kaupapa Maori also run adult education classes to support the re education of Maori parents - for example Maori language classes for their parents in order that they can better support their children's language, and schooling development in the home. Also some schools run hui (large gatherings) for the teaching of reading in English, life skills programmes, and resource making meetings to support the school curriculum development in the home.
There are currently not enough Kura Kaupapa Maori to meet the demand of the large numbers of Maori children now in the pre school option of Te Kohanga Rao. Many Te Kohanga Reo communities are still engaged in the struggle to fully establish a local Kura Kaupapa Maori option. At the same time there are other associated needs which are being struggled for in support of Kura Kaupapa Maori development, for example the development of a teacher training course at the Auckland College of Education, the development of a Kura Kaupapa Maori Resource Centre in West Auckland, the development of a formal relationship with the Ministry of Education, the establishment of a unified national body to oversee the Kura Kaupapa Maori development, and the establishment of a Kura Tuarua (secondary school option) at Hoani Waititi marae. As well there are a multitude of local struggles related to maintaining the day to day running of individual Kura Kaupapa Maori. For example, fund raising activities, resource production, curriculum issues, Board of Trustee's issues, teaching issues, mediating political structures and conscientising the community at large to the 'intervention' potential of Kura Kaupapa, have all had to continue at the same time, largely from within and through the limited resources of the school whanau itself. All of these tasks still have to be handled by the Kura whanau's themselves despite the development of enabling legislation and the flow of some funding support from government. However, throughout the historical development of Kura Kaupapa Maori dating from 1985, the notion of 'struggle' has been an important element in not only refining the Kaupapa (guiding philosophy) but also in making parents more resolute and unified in respect of it.
The potential of Kura Kaupapa Maori schooling to 'speak' in general terms to the Maori educational crisis needs to be acknowledged, explored and capitalised upon if there is genuine concern to alleviate the current difficulties. Given the choice to make key decisions in regard to curriculum, pedagogy and so on, what choices were made? What are the successful elements of Kura Kaupapa Maori and how might they be effectively employed to the benefit of Maori pupils generally? (given that approximately 85% of Maori children are still within conventional state education settings).
Kaupapa Maori as Educational Intervention
Kura Kaupapa Maori communities, building on the successful elements of the Te Kohanga Reo pre school initiative, have produced an intervention that is proving successful in many different ways for the children in these schools. Success is more apparent when measured against the schooling experiences of many Maori children who remain caught within mainstream state schooling. Some of the key intervention elements which are embraced within Kura Kaupapa Maori and which have the potential to speak to Maori educational and schooling crises are briefly outlined here.
1.(TINO) RANGATIRATANGA (relative autonomy principle)
- the goal of 'control over one's own life and cultural well-being' has made gains within the relatively autonomous development of Kura Kaupapa Maori. Greater autonomy over key decision-making in schooling has been attained for example in regard to administration, curriculum, pedagogy and Maori aspirations. Key points are that Maori people have made these choices and are therefore more committed to making them work.
2. TAONGA TUKU IHO (cultural aspirations principle)
- In Kura Kaupapa Maori, to be Maori is taken for granted. Maori language, knowledge, culture and values are validated and legitimated. Maori cultural aspirations, particularly in a wider societal context of the struggle for language and cultural survival, is more assured. One of the common faults of previous schooling interventions has been the inadequate or serious attention paid to this aspect. In incorporating these elements, a strong emotional and spiritual factor is introduced to support the commitment of Maori to the intervention.
3. AKO MAORI (culturally preferred pedagogy)
- That teaching and learning settings and practices are able to closely and effectively connect with the cultural backgrounds and life circumstances (socio-economic) of Maori communities. That these teaching and learning choices are selected as being culturally preferred. Other pedagogy is also utilised including general Pakeha schooling methods, and some cross cultural borrowing, eg. Japanese pedagogy.-'Soroban' maths programme; learning of Japanese language. The move towards Pacific/Asian cultures and language is a logical development given close cultural similarities, and given the shared commonalities of the Austronesian group of languages.
4. KIA PIKI AKE I NGA RARURARU O TE KAINGA (mediation of socio-economic and home difficulties principle)
- The Kaupapa (philosophy) of Kura Kaupapa Maori is such a powerful and all embracing force, through its emotional (ngakau) and spiritual (wairua) elements, that it commits Maori communities to take seriously the schooling enterprise despite other social and economic impediments; it impacts at the ideological level, and is able to assist in mediating a societal context of unequal power relations; it makes schooling a priority consideration despite debilitating social and economic circumstances.
5. WHANAU (extended family structure principle)
- This structure supports the ideological support 'won' in the previous category. It does this by providing a practical support structure to alleviate and mediate social and economic difficulties, parenting difficulties, health difficulties and others. Such difficulties are not located in individual homes but in the total whanau; the whanau takes collective responsibility to assist and intervene. While the whanau structure implies a support network for individual members there is also a reciprocal obligation on individual members to 'invest' in the whanau group. In this way, parents are culturally 'contracted' to support and assist in the education of all of the children in the whanau. Perhaps the most significant aspect of whanau administration and management is that it brings back into the schooling setting many parents who were once extremely 'hostile' to education given their own 'unhappy' schooling experiences. This is a major feature of Kura Kaupapa Maori schooling intervention - it has committed parents to re-invest in schooling and education for their children.
6. KAUPAPA (Collective vision; philosophy principle)
- Kura Kaupapa Maori have a collective vision which is written into a formal charter entitled 'Te Aho Matua'. This vision provides the guidelines for excellence in Maori; what a good Maori education should entail. It also acknowledges Pakeha culture and skills required by Maori children to participate fully and at every level in modern New Zealand society. 'Te Aho Matua' builds on the Kaupapa of Te Kohanga Reo, and provides the parameters for the uniqueness that is Kura Kaupapa Maori. Its power is in its ability to articulate and connect with Maori aspirations, politically, socially, economically and culturally.
This list is not a definitive one in that it only suggest some of the key elements implicit within Kura Kaupapa Maori schooling which contribute to the success of these schools.
Kura Kaupapa Maori are arguably the only real change within all of the present education reforms since the Picot review of 1988 which attempts to implement a culturalist and structuralist intervention into the existing Maori schooling crises. Kura Kaupapa Maori endeavour to develop structural change, albeit limited, at the power relations and ideological levels. For example through increased control over knowledge, through increased control over the curriculum, and therefore through increased influence over the credentialling processes. Kura Kaupapa Maori confronts the hegemonies which sustain the legitimacy of dominant Pakeha schooling practice, and in fact goes further through developing counter hegemonies such as those which pertain to the validity and legitimacy of Maori language, knowledge and culture.
Above all the theory of change, generalised as 'Kaupapa Maori' which is embedded within this and other sites, is a Maori derived resistance initiative which responds to Maori needs and aspirations. The real struggle faced by Maori now is to preserve the emancipatory space won by Kaupapa Maori against the domesticating forces of the dominant Pakeha state.