So school boards can essentially opt out of offering Te Reo Māori if they are getting good NCEA results? That seems to be what the Minister of Education is saying in this interview on Native Affairs.
The interviewer Ward Kamo points out at the start,
“Japanese is offered year round at the high school, while Te Reo Māori is offered for just six weeks of the year”
Kamo asks Parata “Is it okay with you if Te Reo is offered as an option alongside skiing at Taumaranui High?”
and the Minister responds
“It’s more important whether that’s okay for the parents of the kids who are enrolled at Taumaranui High and whether the Board of Trustees is representing what the wider community interests are…”
While many would disagree, and would like to make sure that Te Reo is much more central in our curriculum, and there are certainly good reasons for that- the Minister is on one level correct in leaving this decision up to the Board. It’s what Tomorrow’s Schools and the NZC do. Thank god we’re not in the UK where Minister of Education essentially sets the texts that will be studied at each year level!
However, the reason she gives for this isn’t about the Education Act and school autonomy. It’s about results.
“What I can tell you is that there has been a significant increase in the achievement generally at Taumaranui High in the last five years, and in particular Māori students’ achievement has gone up at a very significant rate. SO I think there’s a lot to congratulate Taumaranui High school about in terms of making sure that Māori students are getting qualifications that they can leave school with.”
This opens up a massive can of worms. If schools were to follow this is to its final conclusion, could they ditch any subject areas that they wanted in order to get students through NCEA ? If the Minister will not defend Te Reo Māori , will she defend science, or English? We already have examples of incredibly narrow and ‘functionalist’ NCEA offerings at charter schools like Vanguard – is this what is being encouraged?
With a ‘single minded focus on student achievement’ (the Minister’s phrase) as measured by NCEA level 2, what else is the Minister willing to let Boards do to get students across the line? And if there is, as hinted at the Minister’s discussions about the resourcing review, moves afoot to gives schools with ‘good results’ more money and even greater autonomy to decide how it’s spend, what’s being incentivised here?
There is a big discussion to be had about individual student needs, school autonomy and the interests of a nationally coherent and equitable curriculum, and it’s one that we shouldn’t shy away from. But the Minister’s response seems to be,”Forget about that, as long as they meet my achievement targets”.