The Green Party has announced a plan for universal Te Reo Maori in schools.
The party has launched a petition to support the call, and will be engaging with parents, tangata whenua and the education sector this year to develop a policy on how it will be delivered.
Green Party Maori development spokesperson Marama Davidson says the Green Party is committed to achieving the goal.
“Despite huge progress over recent decades, the survival of Te Reo Maori is still not assured. In 2013, only 3.7 per cent of New Zealanders spoke Te Reo Maori and the percentage of Maori who can hold a conversation in Te Reo Maori is falling.
“We have a responsibility to ensure our indigenous language not just survives, but thrives in Aotearoa, and introducing all children to it at school is one of the best ways to make that happen.”
President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation Whetu Cormick applauded the announcement.
“NZPF led the establishment of a professional learning development programme, the Maori Achievement Collaborations (MACs) to support principals to transform the culture of their schools and open up to bi-culturalism,” he says.
“Teaching Te Reo to every New Zealander will complement the MAC programme and greatly benefit all children in Aotearoa.”
However, ACT party leader David Seymour has spoken out in opposition to the proposed policy.
“Their first election year announcement could have been about housing, fixing educational failure, or raising productivity but instead they want to force Te Reo on students, who already have the choice of studying it.
“The Greens remain a party who put their ideology ahead of New Zealanders' wellbeing. ACT supports students' right to pursue the subject, but it should be optional.”
Tauranga intermediates already embracing Te Reo
Whether or not Te Reo Maori becomes a compulsory subject is unlikely to affect Tauranga schools, many of which already insist upon Te Reo being a part of their curriculum.
Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping agrees, saying Te Reo is widespread in most schools anyway.
“Certainly at Otumoetai Intermediate we try to incorporate Te Reo as much as we can. We don't have any bilingual classes but we do try to make it part of our lessons.”
Otumoetai Intermediate, like other schools, offers English and Te Reo, but also Mandarin, which is taught by language assistants paid for by the Chinese government.
He says every teacher is expected to build Te Reo and tikanga into their own programmes.
“What's more important is student's having an understanding not only of the language, but of Maori culture as well.”
Aquinas College head of curriculum Fraser Graham says their school has compulsory Te Reo Maori for Years 7-9.
“We believe this is important for a number of reasons – honouring our responsibility as treaty partners, acknowledging and celebrating the bicultural heritage of our nation.
“As a Catholic school, it is an important issue for us in terms of our commitment to social justice, as well as acknowledgement of the great variety and flavour that exists within human experience.”
Mount Maunganui Intermediate principal Lisa Morresey says the use of Te Reo Maori in classrooms often depends on teacher confidence.
“The teaching of other second languages also depends on teacher confidence and competence. Te Reo Maori is integrated into our topics and our learning where we can. We often use both languages in assemblies, formal occasions, newsletters, and in day to day use. We also have a bilingual class which delivers learning in both English and Maori.
“Personally, I think that Te Reo Maori is a taonga only found in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I believe by teaching and using Te Reo Maori we give our students a tremendous gift. The gift of identity, understanding, language, culture and history.”
She says if Te Reo Maori was to be compulsory for all students, the Ministry of Education would need to staff and resource schools appropriately.