He taonga te reo: Honouring te reo me ona tikanga1, the Maori language and culture, within early childhood education in Aotearoa2. Dr Jenny Ritchie, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Teacher Education, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand Abstract This paper considers data from recent research which illustrates the ways in which tamariki (children), whanau (families) and educators are integrating the use of the Maori language within their everyday educational interactions, as mandated by the bilingual New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996).
Languages reflect cultures, expressing our deeper meanings and representations. Inscribed within verbal and non-verbal languages are our ways of being, knowing and doing (Martin, 2008). Jeanette Rhedding-Jones has inquired in her Norwegian multicultural context as to “What kinds of constructions are the monocultural professionals creating for cross-cultural meetings and mergings? ” (2001, p. 5).
What follows is an exploration of strategies by which Maori ways of being, knowing and doing are being enacted through the medium of te reo in early childhood centres.
Introduction Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996), the first bicultural education curriculum in Aotearoa, reaffirmed a commitment already widely acknowledged across the early childhood education sector in this country, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi3, and the validation and inclusion of te reo me ona tikanga4 as an integrated component of early childhood education programmes.
Te Whariki contains strong clear statements of expectations for educators in terms of enacting te reo Maori within their teaching: New Zealand is the home of Maori language and culture: curriculum in early childhood settings should promote te reo and nga tikanga Maori, making them visible and affirming their value for children from all cultural backgrounds.
Adults working with children should demonstrate an understanding of the different iwi and the meaning of whanau and whanaungatanga5 (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.
42) The juxtaposition of the promotion of te reo and tikanga alongside whanau and whanaungatanga is insightful. Previous research had identified that as early childhood 1 2 Te reo is the Maori language, tikanga are Maori beliefs, values and cultural practices. Aotearoa is a Maori name for New Zealand. 3 Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between Maori chiefs and the British Crown, promised protections to Maori of their lands and taonga – everything of value to Maori , which includes their languages, beliefs, values and traditions.
4 Te reo is the Maori language and tikanga are Maori cultural practices. This phrase, literally, “the language and its cultural practices” demonstrates how intrinsically the language and culture are linked. 5 Iwi are tribes, whanau are families, and whanaungatanga is the building of relationships. 2 educators generate an environment reflective and inclusive of Maori values such as whanaungatanga, Maori families are more comfortable and become more involved within that early childhood setting (Ritchie, 2002). Te reo Maori has been severely jeopardised by the processes of colonisation.
As Mere Skerrett has written: Maori ways of speaking were also colonised through the subjugation of te reo Maori, to be replaced by English. This, at times violent, process of colonisation caused a disruption in the intergenerational transmission of Maori language, Maori knowledge and, as a consequence, disrupted Maori lives and Maori societies. (2007, p. 7) Whanau Maori have consistently stated their preference that their children learn their language and culture within education contexts (AGB/McNair, 1992; M.Durie, 2001; Else, 1997;
Te Puni Kokiri/Ministry of Maori Development, 1998) in affirmation of their identity as Maori, since “Te reo Maori serves as the medium through which symbolic and cultural components are properly united and Maoriness most appropriately expressed” (A. Durie, 1997, p. 152).
Young children learn languages comparatively easily. Early childhood centres are a logical site for young children to have opportunities to learn te reo Maori, in naturalistic experiential ways, consistent with both early childhood and second language learning pedagogies (Cummins, 2001; Ritchie, 1994).
This will only occur if we are able to provide them with a linguistically rich environment and authentic language models. It is reasonable that Maori parents might expect that their children will not acquire poor pronunciation of their own language from their educational experiences. Previous Research In 1999 as part of my doctoral research (Ritchie, 2002), I observed 13 different early childhood settings in the Waikato area (Ritchie, 1999). I noted that in most of the settings there was at least one staff member who attempted to use some Maori language.
This was a stronger use of te reo than Pam Cubey observed in eight Wellington early childhood centres in 1992, when she reported that virtually no Maori language was heard (Cubey, 1992). During my observations, the most frequent usage of te reo Maori were ‘commands’, such as: “Haere mai ki te kai; E tu tamariki; E noho; Haere mai ki te whariki; Horoi o ringaringa”6. There were also instances of counting and naming colours in te reo Maori. Several staff repeatedly inserted single Maori nouns within some of their regular English sentences, for example, “Do you want some fruit? Some panana 6.
Haere mai ki te kai – come and eat E tu tamariki – stand up children E noho- sit down Haere mai ki te whariki – come to the mat Horoi o ringaringa – wash your hands panana – banana aporo- apple taringa – ear(s) waha – mouth 3 or some aporo? Turn on your taringa, zip up your waha”. During my visits, eight of the 13 centres sang at least one song in te reo Maori, usually at structured mat-times, which were compulsory for all children. These teachers identified confidence and competence as barriers, because, as one teacher explained, “you feel like a real twit when it comes out wrong”.
I was concerned that the available te reo Maori resources appeared to be under-utilised and that the range of language use was restricted to simple commands, the use of colour names and counting in Maori. This indicated reliance on a limited range of vocabulary, with little knowledge of Maori grammar. Teachers expressed their need for support and encouragement to broaden their ‘comfort zone’ beyond single words, to using complete and more complex phrases that represent linguistically authentic Maori structures.
I suggested that teachers consider widening the range of formats in which they used Maori phrases. Recent data Whilst 6. 58% of registered early childhood teachers are Maori (Ministry of Education, 2007), only 1. 6% of New Zealanders of European ancestry speak Maori (Ministry of Social Development, 2007). Early childhood teachers’ use of te reo may seem encouraging in that 75% of Pakeha early childhood teachers said that they use some Maori whilst teaching, yet 70% of these teachers reported themselves as speaking Maori “not very well” (Harkess, 2004, p. 12).
In 2006 we reported on a two-year study7 with a range of participants, which included early childhood educators, an Iwi Education Initiative8, teacher educators, specialist educators and professional learning providers, co-exploring strategies for supporting the involvement of whanau Maori within early childhood settings other than Kohanga Reo9 (Ritchie & Rau, 2006).
Using narrative (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990; Schulz, Schroeder, & Brody, 1997) and Kaupapa Maori (Bishop, 2005; Smith, 1999, 2005) research methodologies, we explored early childhood educators’ strategies for encouraging the participation of whanau Maori within early childhood education settings, and ways for implementing understandings of commitments derived from Te Tiriti o Waitangi as expressed in the bicultural early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki, through the delivery of Tiriti-based programmes10.
Participants in this study were those who were strongly committed to implementing Tiriti-based practice. Pedagogical enactment described in this study was consistent with 7 This project was funded through the Teaching Learning Research Initiative, a fund provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and administered by NZCER. 8 We gratefully acknowledge the support and contribution of Kokiri Tuwaretoa Education Initiative to the Whakawhanaungatanga study.
9 Kohanga Reo are Maori-medium educational settings where young children are immersed in the Maori language and culture in a whanau-based context. 10 The term Tiriti-based practice is derived from a commitment to Te Tiriti oWaitangi, the treaty signed in 1840 by Maori chiefs and the British Crown, that legitimated the presence of immigrants, initially from Britain, alongside the tangata whenua, Maori, the indigenous people of this land.
4 a view of Maori language and cultural practices as being holistically and simultaneously performed. This enactment includes daily welcoming and spiritual rituals in te reo, and is inclusive of waiata11. This climate generated a sense of welcoming and safety for Maori families, which resulted in their increasing involvement in centre reo and tikanga implementation. An educator demonstrated how this whanau participation was integral within their early childhood centre programming:
“In partnership with whanau we introduce new waiata each term, and tikanga experiences, such as, hangi, powhiri, harakeke, [and] legends of the whanau, hapu12, and iwi attending the service. ” Other Maori co-researchers within the Whakawhanaungatanga research project also identified aspects of Te Ao Maori13 that they would like to see reflected within early childhood education and care settings. They considered it important that Maori parents and whanau sense a match between their values and those of educational settings.
They valued a sense of whanaungatanga generated and enacted within the early childhood centre, whereby tamariki and whanau, kuia and kaumatua, and other whanau members such as “Aunties” (Martin, 2007) participated as a collective, learning and teaching alongside the teachers and children, educators sharing responsibility and demonstrating willingness to identify and support the needs of all members of that collective.
In this vision, te reo Maori is modelled and integrated throughout the programme, with support for adults to increase their own facility with the language alongside their children, and there is ongoing everyday enactment of tikanga such as: rituals of welcoming and farewell; sharing of kai14; a value of inclusiveness; reference to Te Ao Wairua15 and nga Atua16, and annual celebrations such as Matariki.
17 Children, in this view are exposed to te reo as part of the daily enactment of Maori beliefs, values and practices. Co-researchers in this project demonstrated a commitment to integrating te reo and tikanga within their centre practice, in ways that were meaningful and contextual for children and families.
Working with natural materials, such as harakeke (flax), provided a source of learning of traditional knowledge, involving the planting and care of the flax bushes, weaving of rourou18, children observing alongside adults, connected to the land and its spiritual significance, as Ana, a Playcentre kaiako, described: So even though we had those harakeke within our centre boundary, in our lawn, we knew that the pa harakeke19 of that harakeke that we had, came 11 12 Waiata are songs.
Hangi are feasts cooked in earth ovens, powhiri are greeting ceremonies, harakeke is flax, and hapu are sub-tribes 13 Te Ao Maori is the Maori world. 14 Kai is food 15 Te Ao Wairua is the spiritual dimension. 16 Nga Atua are supernatural beings, or gods. 17 Matariki is the constellation whose arrival announces the Maori New Year. 18 Rourou are flax food baskets. 19 Pa harakeke are flax bushes, often planted as a source of flax for weaving and rongoa (medicinal remedies), and also refers metaphorically to the nurturing by the wider family of the offspring, the younger shoots.
5 from a bigger picture. And all the natural resources on our little wagon inside, in the area of where they go and make pictures and glue things and make structures out of the driftwood and put their shells and tie their shells on and harakeke, they might have been just in the rourou baskets, but we knew and the tamariki knew they come from this bigger picture out there in the whenua20, because they had gone to get them. So we brought our big world reality and our spiritual world reality into the bounds of that centre.
Pania, a Maori kindergarten teacher, spoke of her bilingual approach as being like a whariki,21 …where you get two strands and you build them together to make your little kete22 or your whariki of learning. And [implementing a bilingual approach] is a way that I can facilitate my programme that is non-threatening. It’s an option for the child – and the parent – whether they would like to do it, but it’s also another teaching technique and a resource and a learning strategy.
Daisy, a Pakeha kindergarten teacher, actively researched aspects of tikanga that she was interested in integrating into her teaching: I wrote a story and what I wanted to do was encompass the tikanga aspects on collecting kai moana23. I wanted it to be something Pakeha could grasp, something simple, that was really clear and conveying the tikanga aspects because it’s not just about going down to the beach and picking up a few pipis24, its deeper than that, there’s a lot of kaupapa25 behind it. How did I know about all the tikanga?
—I’ve never gone out collecting kai moana in my life? Research, korero26 with others more knowledgeable. As far as getting it to children it needs to be simple and straight-forward. The pipi story is focused on Tangaroa,27 the protocols around that. The tamariki seem to enjoy it, but in order to deepen their understanding, and extend the story, I set up the pipi hunt in the sandpit. So the story was a visual and a listening experience, whereas the pipi hunt was a tactile experience, so that then I think I would have managed to tap into every child’s way of learning.
Daisy also involved whanau Maori of her centre in her planning, although she took primary responsibility for researching the reo and tikanga that was to be incorporated. Incorporating te reo and tikanga was more effective when educators were committed both individually and collectively to proactively integrating this within planning, teaching 20 Whenua is land. Whariki are woven flax mats. 22 A kete is a woven flax basket. 23 Kai moana are seafoods. 24 Pipi are cockles. 25 Kaupapa is philosophy. 26 Korero is talking. 27 Tangaroa is the Atua, supernatural being, or God, of the sea.
21 6 interactions, programme evaluation, and centre review. Many of the Pakeha coresearchers have worked hard over the years to increase their competence in te reo, and continue to do so, by taking courses. At Ariel’s childcare centre, all the teachers had attended a reo course offered in their local community. Penny, a kindergarten head teacher who was also studying te reo, explained that as her own confidence grew, and supported by her co-teacher, the quality of te reo within the centre programme continued to strengthen, as “the reo is fed in gently and quietly”.
Respondents from the Hei Ara Kokiri Tuwaretoa Education Initiative data articulated aspirations for early childhood education services that envisioned all children as being supported to become biculturally and bilingually competent. The following example recognises the important role of early childhood services in offering quality models of te reo Maori: To be fully bicultural and therefore bilingual all children in Aotearoa/NZ should have the opportunity to learn to be fluent in Maori and English and develop understanding of both cultures’ world view.
We need proficient Maori speaking teachers in all ECE learning environments. It is not enough to use Maori language in directives – information – acknowledgment contexts. We need to work towards providing environments where children can use the target language, be completely immersed in te reo Maori. We need to promote environments where the conscientization of language is constructed as normal to prevent dialogue being used by teachers to act on children. Teachers and children need to be using dialogue to work with each other – co-constructing. In order to reflect this, we need to provide environments rich in Maori language.
We need proficient speaking Maori teachers! Regurgitating learnt phrases will not provide the opportunities for children to really conscientise their experiences, that is, thinking in Maori. Only a very high level of exposure in Maori will do that. Honouring the indigenous language and culture of this country remains an ongoing challenge for educators, particularly given the legacy of colonialistic arrogance that has limited access for many people, both Maori and non-Maori. Kaupapa Maori models are providing inspirational pedagogical models that honour te reo me ona tikanga (Skerrett, 2007).
However, as the numbers of Maori children in education services other than kaupapa Maori remains high, the onus is on educators in these sectors to find strategies to provide Maori children and families with the language that is their birth-right and source of identity as affirmed by Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child (1989), which requires that:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of Indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is Indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.
7 Conclusion Maori continue to seek education provision that respects and honours their identity, including the linguistic affirmation of authentic models of te reo Maori (Robertson, Gunn, Lanumata, & Pryor, 2007). As early childhood educators seek to deliver on the expectations outlined in the early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996), there remain many challenges, not the least of which is the lack of linguistic competence in te reo Maori of the vast majority of teachers (Harkess, 2004).
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