“Tupu te toi, ora te toi, whanake te toi. Te toi i ahu mai i Hawaiki.”
“Grow the treasure, sustain the treasure, develop the treasure, the treasure that stems from Hawaiki”.
– nā King Taawhiao: Te Toi Tupu vision, gifted by Waikato-Tainui
I have just returned from two days’ stay on Tūrangawaewae Marae, the headquarters of Te Kingiitanga in the Waikato, at the invitation of the Waikato-Tainui iwi. The consortium for which I work for part of the week, Te Toi Tupu, is focused on the needs of Māori, Pasifika and students with special educational needs, on behalf of the Ministry of Education and this hui brought us together to continue to explore this work further.
It was fitting that we focused on our own cultural responsiveness by walking in others’ shoes and experiencing the life, the stories, the whakapapa and the manaakitanga (hospitality) on the marae. We were fortunate to hear Sarah-Jane Tiakawai and Tipa Mahuta speak about Kiingitanga, about the way their iwi has been part of a resurgence around the Waikato River and how they continue to fight for redress. They also spoke of the story we tell ourselves about education – that we seem convinced that change must be slow, that it is complex – and they urged us to look again at ways to increase the sense of urgency there, too.
I talk to many teachers as part of my work who look yearningly overseas at what schools are doing with technologies, who are creating approaches to school design and who are building impressive, modern learning environments. And why not? There is much to be learned from being connected to global education movements. The purpose of education, many would say, after all, is to think globally about how we can all work as citizens within our societies for the betterment of our peoples.
But I would urge NZ educators who look overseas to also look within our shores at some of the fresh, exciting thinking that is coming from schools here too.
Highlights for me included:
- Kelston Deaf Education Centre leaders, David Foster, and students speaking in English, te reo Māori, Deaf sign language and lip reading as they shared their stories.Watson Ohia from Ngā Taiatea Wharekura and Toby Westrupp from Tai Wānanga who, with wonderfully articulate students, described their vision for grounded, focused education that is culturally located.
- Fetaui Iosefo and her son, Joshua, who spoke of their experiences in schooling from a Samoan perspective and also treated us to an astonishing live performance of ‘Brown Brother’:
And the same themes kept shining through, woven like threads through the weft of the day:
- The vital importance of students being able to see themselves, who they are, where they are from, their history and their language at the heart of their school story.
- That formal education ends in the teenage years but our role is to prepare them for the life beyond: schooling must have a real-life purpose. Several spoke of providing strong links to wider opportunities through work experience, community mentorships and exchange visits. They often talked about the power of having goals beyond school in which to ground the studies. Joshua spoke of having a passion to ‘hook’ your learning and an ‘anchor’, such as your family, to ground you. Strong whānau links between home and school were central.
- Schooling as holistic: The core values of service to the community, to family, to those around us were emphasised; what kind of fathers and mothers, citizens and community memnbers are we educating young people to be? Schooling is not an end in itself but a means by which we access the world beyond. The importance of clear school vision, values and a community-constructed graduate profile were all described with passion.
Personal highlights for me included 100+ of us sleeping marae-style (yes, I did sleep!), the generosity of those who provided for such a large group with apparently no effort, and the warmth of the kaumatua who greeted us on the paepae.
I am indebted to our hosts at the marae, my colleagues who provide such support to enable this Pākehā chick from Yorkshire to feel so comfortable on the marae, and to Te Toi Tupu for giving me the opportunity to stay and work somewhere very special for two days.
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! It is the people! It is the people! It is the people!