Apr 12, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

He Kakano, developing Culturally Responsiveness Leadership to improve Maori achievement

4 min read

Photo Credit: He KakanoTangataWhenua.com’s CEO, Potaua Biasiny-Tule was asked to present a think piece forNZ Educational Administration & Leadership Society (NZEALS) Conference 2012 – which he did with his effortless flare, but what was more interesting was the presentation that came after.

We were humbled to have the opportunity to listen to a presentation on the He Kakano programme. Along with hearing about He Kakano, we were able to hear from two school principals that have taken on the challenge of He Kakano to ensure that Maori students achieve in a way that respects and reflects their cultures.

Case Study One – In particular we got to hear a case study about a Southland girl’s school that chose to take on the programme and over time and with a great deal of reflection, learned that although their statistics showed that they were fine, they learned that many of their Maori girls were leaving before exams so that their scores were never even considered. Once they looked deeply, they realized that their Maori students were not achieving along the lines of their Pakeha students, so they took on the challenge of ensuring that their Maori students would be able to achieve to the same standard of their non-Maori students.

But incredibly they did this not via traditional mainstream methods, instead, it was about incorporating and including the whanau of the girls and creating real and active ways of engaging and communicating with Maori students and their whanau. The principal who spoke said that the journey has been a life changing experience.

Key challenges have been sustaining the focus, being authentic in engaging with both the whanau, the Runaka and the marae. Intellectually the process has been incredibly difficult but beyond rewarding.

The outcomes have been beyond what the school had imagined, the engagement of Maori students is nothing less then extraordinary. The risk of course is that once the programme is achieving that staff become complacent. So although NCEA results have not been what the school had hoped for, they realise that they have been successful however in retention, their Maori students are no longer leaving and for this they are incredibly proud. They also have come to understand that this process is going to be a long one and for this they are prepared.

Case Study Two – The second case study looked to at a school based in Central NZ, as a result of horrific NCEA scores in a school that was 45% Maori a clear need for alternative approaches to enhancing Maori achievement was taken. The school sought to double their pass rates (something that many in the education sector said was literally impossible).

High levels of accountability were the key to the school taking on the He Kakano programme. Academic mentoring was engaged in, which ensured that whanau were actively communicated with throughout the school year. A Maori Development Plan was also developed, with the whakaaro “One Size Fits One” at the back of their minds. The school also demanded that each student join an extra curricular activity along with the demand that each teacher join an extra curricular activity.

Parents were encouraged to be apart of the school and attendance rates moved from 15% attendance to 85%. Students and their whanau were also required to created Student Development Plans.

Maori NCEA level 1 results shifted dramatically from 18% to 81%, level 2 went from 42% to 73% and at level 3 from 29% to 70% – with a recognition that still a great deal of work needs to be done.

The school however, has chose to not over-celebrate these successes. This was done purposely, to ensure that this actually becomes a norm rather then an exception.

About He Kakano

He Kakano is a professional development project designed to promote and support culturally responsive leadership in secondary schools with the express purpose of improving the educational outcomes of Maori students. He Kakano combines the strengths of two institutions (Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi and Waikato University) to inform a theoretical framework based on whakawhanaungatanga (respectful relationships of interdependence) and an institutional framework to engender sustainable, systemic change.

With the understanding that educational leadership is a socially bounded process He Kakano is predicated on the knowledge that leadership not only matters (Robins et al 2009) but that the way we lead and the context in which leading is enacted also counts. Leadership is subject to the cultural traditions and values of the society in which it is exercised (Mead). In this sense leading is no different from other social processes. In spite of growing evidence that suggests culture and leadership cobble together matters (Barbara Bazron, David Osher and Steve Fleischman 2005) many current debates in educational leadership continue to be couched in general or universal terms without taking into account the particularities of the local cultural context that influences and shapes the way leading plays out.

Using a one size fits one approach counting, accounting and being accountable for the challenges laid down in Ka Hikitea – managing for Success, the Ministry of Education’s Maori Education Strategy 2008-2012 (MoE 2009) requires data literate professionals. In this presentation two principals share their personal and institutional journeys (in progress) into professional cycles of inquiry that include discursive positioning, engaging and repositioning in order to co-construct next steps.


NZEALS is a nationwide organisation engaging with educational leadership issues, best practice and research relevant to all sectors of the education system: early childhood, primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions and Government education organisations. The conference themeEducational leadership for creative learning and caring communitieshighlights the innovative and holistic aspects of public education which are believed to be vitally important for the nations economic growth and social well-being. We have an exciting programme planned, including five keynote speakers and a range of presentation options for delegates to choose from. Together we can make a difference.

6 thoughts on “He Kakano, developing Culturally Responsiveness Leadership to improve Maori achievement

  1. Mike Eagle’s definition of racism is selective, and his owning up to the reality of schools underserving M?ori appears to be non-existent. So what do you want to do to change that Mike? This is not about blaming M?ori but asking schools to focus on their potential. Calling programmes racist without taking the trouble to read what the data and evidence says smacks of laziness. Until the day wh?nau, hap? and iwi feel comfortable about engaging with schools – and schools understand they have an agentic role in creating positive relationships with M?ori students,wh?nau, hap? and iwi, we will not get the shifts in the system that we HAVE to make. Taking cheap shots from afar is not the way to do it. Do your homework, find out what is happening, talk to people like me, then have your say from a more informed position. Otherwise you are buying into the worst racist argument – that we are all the same. Paora Howe (Professional Operations Manager, He K?kano)

  2. I disagree with Mike Eagle. Far too long the stick that Maori have been measured by (and consequently beaten with) has been written and provided by a system that ignored Maori values. If New Zealand education is to progress it would do well to incorporate values such as those espoused in the above article.

    Dramatic shifts in student participation by using initiatives such as parent involvement must surely be duplicated elsewhere and can only lead to benefit.

    Surely any benefit to education must be applauded especially if they are initiatives initiating from inside those groups that they are focused on helping.

  3. Programs like He Kakano and are simply racist.

    They assume that Maori fail because they are Maori. They assume that somehow Maori are different and learn differently or are inferior in some way to other racial groups.

    This Maori comes rejects this kind of racism completely.

    Mike Eagle
    Ngati Maru ( Hauraki )

    1. We would disagree, they assume that One size simply fits One, meaning mainstream will always fail minority groups and in this case, that minority is Maori.

      This programme in particular recognizes that what Maori value and aspire to can be different to what Pakeha value. That isn’t racist that is simply representative of our reality.

      The fact that these programmes have resulted in HUGE changes in NCEA scores and high levels of retention mean they work, and OMG, isn’t that what we want?? For our babies to get the education they deserve allowing them to aspire to be anything they want to be??? This is what this programme is helping to achieve.

      By all means, if you have something that works, use it as well, even He Kakano won’t suit all hapu, iwi, marae. Something that is grown within your rohe may well work better. Mauri ora!

    2. A number of errors in Mike’s blog
      1. Programs like He Kakano ARE NOT racist
      2. They did not fail because they were Maori, they failed because of the systems that have been imposed on them
      3. Maori ARE different
      4. M?ori DO learn differently
      5. M?ori ARE NOT inferior to other racial groups.
      Te only things correct in this are the last two lines (or are they errors too?)


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