May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori Language Movement earns international recognition

2 min read

Kohanga reo have earned international recognition for their profound role in providing a “social, political and cultural focal point for empowerment of Maori people”. The Unesco report, ‘Reaching the marginalised” (Full version, PDF 12MB) examined how nations have sought to improve educational outcomes for indigenous communities.

Unesco communications officer, Leila Loupis, told the NZ Herald that:

We take New Zealand’s indigenous language movement as a positive example of having contributed to the expansion of education for Maori children. With their ethos of self-help and commitment to continuity across generations, kohanga reo became a source of inspiration for young Maori parents,” she said.

The report praised the Maori Language movement along with other Maori social movements for being instrumental in shifting the educational focus to indigenous communities themselves teaching us that marginalisation can only be “addressed through processes that empower the marginalised”.

The report also highlighted the positive consequences of Kohanga Reo which have seen a tripling of Maori language educators between 2002-2007 and resulting in an increase of tamariki who attended pre-school from 86% to 91%.

While the evidence is encouraging considerable gaps still remain. The report remarked that the imprint of discrimination, stigmatization and social breakdown was clearly visible in education data. For instance 65% of all students leave school with NCEA level 2 qualifications while the figure drops to 44% for rangatahi Maori and Maori are three times more likely to leave school with no qualifications compared to non-Maori. The report also found that year 11 Maori students who attended kura kaupapa did significantly better than Maori in English-language schools.

In New Zealand, the kohanga reo language movement provided a social, political and cultural focal point for empowerment of Maori people. Political mobilization has contributed to development of a more multicultural education system, which in turn has extended opportunities for Maori children.

Te kohanga reo began in 1981 and the first centre, Pukeatua, was opened near Wellington the following year.

The box below details the success seen in Aotearoa (p . 206) – click on it to see the larger version:


3 thoughts on “Maori Language Movement earns international recognition

  1. Ae indeed Myra, I suppose the rationale is that although there have been considerable gains that the challenge still remains. But mean, to get such a positive response and as Pita mentioned in the NZ Herald article KR have been inspirational to other indigenous communities around the world.

  2. This recognition is fantastic news!! I am pained that they use the statistics to show that Maori still fall beind their Pakeha counterparts in the education system. What they don’t tell you is that those same statistics also show that our rangatahi have definitely improved their pass rates from where they were and it gets better every year. Why do they focus on the negative? The improvements are there and continue to grow. I am very proud we have come so far and are doing so well.

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