School children across New Zealand are facing harsh sentences of up to twenty Māori words as Minister of Corrections Kelvin Davis doubles down on Te Reo pronunciation offenders.
To put it less harshly, Davis (who is also Associate Minister for Education) wants to see a full-scale introduction of Māori language lessons to all New Zealand schools, with Te Reo becoming a compulsory core subject. In expressing this view, he has distanced himself from the stance of his own Labour Party, whose official policy is to aim to make Te Reo universally available, while not being a compulsory nor a core part of the New Zealand curriculum.
Presently, the government have already set themselves the goal of integrating Te Reo Māori into education in early learning and schools by 2025. Davis has been overseeing the policy, reporting good progress as our teachers upskill in Te Reo. “It’s encouraging to see so many people genuinely excited to learn te reo Māori and I’m impressed by their dedication to this [topic].”
However, what Davis envisions would be a step beyond what has already been proposed; introducing Te Reo as a core subject would mean it is taught with the view of equal value and importance to fundamental subjects such as maths and english.
The current coalition government have conflicting views on whether Māori language lessons should be introduced to classes as a core subject. NZ First oppose this policy, while the Greens are in full support, with co-leader Marama Davidson having even labelling it a personal priority. Being the appeasing party, Labour expectedly falls in the middle of the spectrum by embracing but not enforcing the idea of Te Reo education.
Meanwhile, David Seymour has taken to ridiculing Kelvin Davis’ vision in a press release from ACT New Zealand. “The idea that we would force children who already struggle to learn another language seems like a cruel joke,” he says, citing a 2014 TEC report revealing 40% of Year 12 students had failed to meet international benchmarks for literacy and numeracy.
Speaking to Newshub, Davis identified two areas that need strengthening in order for any such Māori programme to be effectively implemented – an increase in qualified teachers and public support. “[If Te Reo is] forced down people’s throats and they’re not yet ready for it, it could have negative consequences.”
Compulsory Te Reo lessons is still a divisive topic, and with conflicting views not only across but within parties, an introduction of core Māori language lessons to schools remains unlikely to be seen anytime soon.