Critical perspectives on the transformative potential of higher education in Aoteara New Zealand
The global economic recession has resulted in unprecedented levels of inequality among the masses and paradoxically extraordinary levels of wealth and fortune among an elite few. In Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a widely held belief among Māori that higher education provides the key to dismantling inequalities and a ‘good education’ will help in the making of a better life. This research study looks at how to create positive transformation for Māori through education by exploring the inter-relationship between higher education, transformation and social class in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand. Based on semi-structured interviews with 30 ‘highly educated’ Māori from diverse backgrounds, aged 25 to 46 years old, this thesis explores the perspectives and tensions that arise for contemporary Māori who are creating a landscape for themselves and their whānau (family), particularly how higher education is complicit in both the potential to transform and the potential to constrain transformation. At the end of the day, are highly educated Māori simply maintaining the status quo, or are they in fact building organic intellectuals with the capacity to create and effect positive transformation for the collective? The research found that higher education success was a key enabler for transformation. Higher education opened doors and provided opportunities for participants to build critical consciousness and accrue material wealth as individuals in order to contribute to collective (whānau, hapū and Iwi) transformation. Only half of the participants identified with social class and therefore class consciousness was not a lever for transformation, rather it was at the level of whakapapa (genealogy) where transformative consciousness might be accelerated. Whānau is the critical transformation site and participants are leading transformative strategies in a range of dynamic ways, however, at present this action is uncoordinated. The findings showed scope for increased cohesion and collaboration in order to develop innovative strategies which draw on ‘both’ cultural and material wealth to address structural inequalities and enliven whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori transformative aspirations.