A reform of the tertiary sector needs to be as much about getting more Māori into more training and jobs at a higher skill level as it is about saving money, say iwi and whanau of Ngāi Tahu.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu held hui throughout its takiwā (district) to get feedback from whānau on the Strategic Plan for Early Learning 2019-29, the Tomorrow’s Schools Review and the Review of Vocational Education, says Executive Director of Tokona Te Raki Māori Futures Collective, Dr Eruera Prendergast-Tarena.

“The feeling of our people was aspirational, and they feel confident in their already strong and long standing relationships with and within the sector. They see the review as an opportunity to address long-standing inequities in our education system for Māori.

“We know that structural reform based solely on saving money would be a missed opportunity. We want to develop the system to deliver on our rights. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 20 years under the education system as it is now and we don’t want to lose ground; and, we want to be a part of designing the next 30 years for transformative change,” says Prendergast-Tarena.

The hui resulted in three key themes which have formed the basis of Ngāi Tahu submissions to government on proposed reforms:

  • The need to embed an authentic Treaty partnership
  • The need for co-designed, whānau-centered innovations
  • The need for regional iwi skills strategies that focus on the jobs of the future

Economies which moving forward without evolving its’ systems further embed existing inequities, says Prendergast-Tarena.

“We know that when the economy experiences a downturn Māori bear the brunt of it and conversely, when the economy moves forward Māori are the last to reap the benefits. We were the game makers in 1840, and  we want to be back in that position by 2040.”

Iwi and whanau in the takiwā  could see the pros and cons of a centralised Polytech organisation, he said. 

“It’s iwi and whanau who know what is best for their people at a regional level. What we do see is that at the moment some of the institutions have a Māori strategic framework and others don’t. There needs to be consistency.  Another essential for this reform is to provide an overarching Treaty framework. We know from experience that if we don’t specifically design for improving Māori outcomes it doesn’t happen.

“The business case is showing that parts of the sector are losing money but the sector is losing Māori people too. We need to be able to present what do Māori lived experiences within the system look like right now? What are their insights? Our framework would put humans at the centre of change.”

Māori have the youngest population within the NZ population, says Prendergast-Tarewa.

“We know that Māori make up the most of the low skilled jobs and that those will be jobs which will disappear with automation and robotics. We know that only one per cent of those working in the IT sector are Māori . We are no longer looking at a one job for life world it’s people training and working then retraining and doing a different job. Our people cannot afford to take time off for a three year degree so we advocate for micro-accreditation where people do small amounts of study while working to get new qualifications.”

Will the government listen? Are they listening already? For now Prendergast-Tarena says it’s a case of “wait and see”.

“The new well-being legislation gives us hope. We are keen on ensuring those in Wellington continue to hear our voices.” he says.

“We aspire to a world where all rangatahi are inspired by their future, confident in their culture, prosperous in their careers and succeeding as Māori. We look forward to working alongside the government as Treaty partners to rewire the vocational education system and ensure our shared aspirations become a reality.”

Quick facts:

  • Māori population are young, the average age for Māori in Aotearoa is 28 years old, ten years younger than the average for Aotearoa
  • Over half of the working Māori population have lower skilled jobs
  • Almost half of the current Māori labour force are at a high risk of being replaced by automation

Equity for Māori will mean:

  • An additional $2.6 billion per year into Māori households
  • 55,000 Māori will move from no qualification to having a qualification
  • 22,500 currently in low skilled jobs will move to high skilled jobs
  • Increase the New Zealand tax revenue, by around $700 million per year


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