Te pā harakeke: Educational success and kōhanga reo

Exploring the meaning of educational success in an indigenous context is a challenging task. Success has come to be promoted as narrow forms of academic success. However, “academic success” does not adequately take into account the knowledge, values, and beliefs of Indigenous peoples that stem from their unique ways of living and being in the world. Indigenous language immersion settings, such as kōhanga reo (Māori immersion “language nests” for children from birth to six years old in Aotearoa New Zealand), have emerged in response to the desires of Indigenous peoples to retain their knowledge, language, and culture. This study contributes to the debate about the nature of educational success by examining multi-generational whānau (family) views of educational success in kōhanga reo. It also explores the contributions of kōhanga reo to the educational success of whānau. The study explored the lived experiences and views of educational success across five whānau spanning three generations: kaumātua (the grandparent generation who helped to set up kōhanga reo), mātua (the parent generation and first graduates of kōhanga reo), and mokopuna (children of the mātua and grandchildren of the kaumātua generations). Data for the kaumātua and mātua generations was collected through the Māori cultural practice of wānanga, and the Mosaic approach was used with mokopuna to provide a number of tools for them to express their views of educational success. The data gathered was then represented as multi-generational pūrākau (a Māori form of storying) to ensure the narratives relating to educational success remained intact and culturally valid. The findings of this research show the meaning of educational success for the three generations in kōhanga reo was associated with Mana Reo (the power of language), Mana Tangata (the power of people), and Mana Whenua (the power of the land). In addition, kōhanga reo has championed the educational success of the multi-generational whānau by providing strong support for the Māori language, whānau transformations, and wellbeing. The influence of kōhanga reo has led to many outcomes showcasing the educational success of mokopuna and whānau who are learning, using, sharing, and protecting te reo Māori. All three generations value whanaungatanga and manaakitanga, and actively look for opportunities that lead to positive outcomes in their homes, schools, and wider communities. There are many implications for whānau, kōhanga reo, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, the education sector, and policy makers. Foremost is reaffirming the message that identity, language, and culture matters in discussions relating to educational success. With each generation, whānau are unlocking new dimensions of, and pathways to, educational success linked to Mana Reo, Mana Tangata, and Mana Whenua. The kōhanga reo model, as a unique indigenous model, plays an important role in unlocking pathways to educational success now and in the future through its unwavering commitment to the cultural socialisation of whānau.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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