Maori Language Use in New Zealand Secondary Schools: What Are the Issues for Teachers and Students?
The aim of this study was to examine the issues surrounding Maori language use in secondary schools. This was to test the hypothesis that the learning experience for Maori students is influenced by a school's responsiveness to Maori needs. In particular the focus was on the use of te reo Maori e.g. pronunciation. It was found that when features of te ao Maori are reflected positively in secondary school practices, values and environment, the overall learning experience may be enhanced and become more positive for Maori students. Ultimately such practice has the potential to reduce the disparity between Maori and non-Maori educational achievement. The prevalence and quality of Maori language learning opportunities during and after teacher training, is currently not meeting the needs of students and teachers. This shortcoming requires further research and investigation. This mixed method qualitative study followed kaupapa Maori research principles and ethics. It incorporated interviews, repeated focus groups and surveys. Participants were teachers and Maori students from selected Wellington secondary schools. The sixty-four student participants raised issues around teachers and their teaching practice. They saw teachers as important role models for positive attitudes and behaviours towards te reo and tikanga Maori. In particular, correct language use and pronunciation was important. The small sample of teachers reported a variety of concerns. One frequent complaint was their lack of knowledge in using te reo and few chances to learn and improve. This study identified a need for more professional development programmes and educational policy to be introduced in secondary schools, which include aspects of Maori language and tikanga learning. This would help address some of the difficulties faced by teachers when using te reo in the classroom and improve overall teaching and learning for Maori students.