Students who start with high proficiency in te reo Māori are unlikely to be supported to further develop their reo Māori skills in English-medium schools. While many teachers think it is important students learn te reo Māori, very few are able to use the language at more than a basic level.

These findings are from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) National Survey of Primary and Intermediate Schools 2016. The latest report to be released from the survey focuses on the experience of ākonga Māori (Māori students) in English-medium schools.

“The findings highlight the unresolved question of how to increase the number of teachers proficient in te reo Māori,” says Kairangahau Matua | Senior Researcher Nicola Bright. “This question will need to be addressed if te reo Māori is to be made universally available in schools.”

English-medium schools are increasingly aware they can support the wellbeing, identity, and achievement of Māori students by incorporating te reo and tikanga into school-wide practices.

“Schools with high levels of ākonga Māori were most likely to have practices in place to support these students,” Ms Bright said.

Most teachers (81%) agreed or strongly agreed that they ‘incorporate te reo Māori and tikanga Māori in my teaching in ways that promote Māori students belonging’.

But the survey also found that most te reo used in school is very basic. Around 80 per cent of teachers used te reo for greetings and farewells, and instructions, while just 39 per cent used the language in creative contexts, conversations, or to teach content.

Associate Education Ministers Kelvin Davis and Jenny Salesa welcomed the survey’s findings.

“The majority of principals see te reo Māori and tikanga Māori as having value for all students and although not all schools are implementing it at a level higher than basic greetings at the moment, more and more are,” says Davis.

Salesa says ensuring teachers are skilled in te reo Māori is a priority.

“The Government is committed to a future where New Zealanders from every background have been given the opportunity to learn to use te reo Māori in everyday conversations. Building the number of teachers who can support our young people to do so is an important first step.”

The NZCER survey got responses from a nationally representative sample of 349 English-medium state and state-integrated primary and intermediate schools. The survey was conducted from August to September 2016.

The findings have been released in a series of reports, all of which are available on the NZCER website. The report ‘Ākonga Māori in English-medium primary and intermediate schools’ is available at: http://www.nzcer.org.nz/principals_national_survey_2016

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