This report measures the extent of inequality for Maori primary and secondary school students within the New Zealand education system. For many years, Maori students have failed to gain educational parity with their Pakeha peers. The Human Rights Commission (2008) considers education as a means to develop human potential and refers to it as the primary vehicle by which individuals can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities.
This report identifies areas of disparity between Maori and Pakeha education and measures the level of inequality within each of these areas. The key areas taken into consideration are Maori academic achievements, attainment of secondary qualifications, truancy levels and the effect of the geographical location and decile of education providers on Maori students. Finally, the study of future population trends within the education system identifies possible determiners for Maori within New Zealand society in years to come.
This report analyses the trends of Maori and Pakeha educational performance and recommends a variety of solutions that seek to remedy the inequality between them.
2.1 Maori Academic Achievement
Maori students have a long history of academic under-achievement in New Zealand when compared to Pakeha students. Maori students are not developing reading, writing and mathematics skills during their primary school years at the same rate as Pakeha students are and they are falling behind their peers when it comes to learning. For example, research shows that in English-medium schools, by the end of year 1, the literacy rates of many Maori children are lower than that of other ethnic groups even if they began the year with the same level of ability (Ministry of Education, 2010a).
In 2001, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study tested New Zealand nine and ten year olds (year 5 students); this study measured 'reading for literacy experience' and 'reading to acquire and use information' skills. The study found that New Zealand students, on average, had a combined score of 529, which was higher than the international average of 500. However, Maori scored well below the New Zealand average with boys scoring 466 and girls scoring 495. (Ministry of Social Development, 2004).
Similar international tests have been carried out comparing New Zealand students to their overseas counterparts; these results have also shown Maori to be a long way behind Pakeha in educational achievement. In 2006, the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) performed mathematical, scientific and reading literacy assessments on 15 year olds in New Zealand. The Ministry of Social Development (2008) shows that New Zealand Pakeha students scored higher than the OECD average on each of these tests. Individual group statistics however, highlighted that Maori scored below the OECD average in each of these tests and constantly have significantly lower scores then Pakeha students.
According to Adams, Openshaw, & Hamer (2005), in 1997 40% of Maori students left school without any qualifications; the figure for non-Maori students was around 10%. Only 40% of Maori students left school with sixth and seventh form qualifications whereas the figure for non-Maori was 70%. In 2002, 38% of Maori male and around 32% of Maori female school leavers left school without any formal qualifications. This figure contrasts greatly when compared with 14% of Pakeha and 9% of Asian students leaving school without qualifications. According to The Ministry of Education (2010b), in 2009, only 65.8% of Maori students stayed at school to the age of 17, compared to Pakeha who had 82.8%. Many Maori leave school without formal qualifications indicating a lack of grounding in knowledge, skills and attitudes; they may also lack the positive sense of identity needed in order to succeed in society. These factors are identified by the Ministry of Education (2005) to be qualities that they want to be associated with school leavers. According to Adams et al. (2005), the number of young Maori leaving school without qualifications is a reflection of the number of high Maori unemployment rate. The Waitangi Tribunal (2010) reiterates this claim by saying that the education system has constantly produced an inadequate education for Maori, resulting in them being disadvantaged when they try to find work.
2.3 Maori Truancy Rates
According to Adams et al. (2005), truancy rates are key indicators in interpreting student engagement in education. The Ministry of Education (2005) claims that students who are engaged in their education attend school regularly are motivated and are engaged in the learning process, resulting in the gaining of qualifications. Because qualified individuals have greater choices in their lives, they look to the future with a positive attitude. In 2006, Maori students were 3 to 4 times more likely to be truant from school than Pakeha and Asian students. In addition to this, schools in the lowest three deciles, of which Maori make up more than half of the population (Nash and Harker, 1998, as mentioned in Adams et al. 2005), had truancy rates that were over 6 times higher than those of the highest decile schools. Truancy has further repercussions to education, as according to The Ministry of Social Development (2008), students missing out on class work can lose contact with their education provider, resulting in them leaving school prematurely. Furthermore, truancy has been identified as a precursor to aggressive behavior, youth crime, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of employment opportunities and teenage pregnancy
2.4 Geographical Location
The Human Rights Commission (2008) states that schools in geographically isolated areas and those in poorer communities are the least likely to provide students with adequate educational opportunities. The main reasons for this are the lack of access to highly qualified and experienced teachers, the inability of families in these areas to afford costs associated with education and staff turnover patterns disadvantaging some schools, especially those in isolated and poor communities. It also reports that Maori children are more likely to live in these small communities where populations range between 1,000 and 9,999.
2.5 Future Trends of Maori Population Within the Education System
If the current trend of Maori failing to achieve within the education system continues, there could be future consequences for New Zealand society as a whole. According to Alton-Lee (2003), by the year 2040, the majority student population in New Zealand is predicted to be comprised of Maori and Pasifika students. Both of these groups have similar achievement levels within the education system (Adams et al, 2005). If these current academic trends continue over the next 30 years, up to 40% of this majority student population could leave school with little or no qualifications. The New Zealand Institute (2004-2010) states that education failure results in a large unskilled labour force and high unemployment. Unless the current Maori educational under-achievement is addresses this population growth will perpetuate the pattern of low socio-economic status for Maori into the future.
3.1 International testing conducted over several years, in both primary and secondary schools, has shown Maori academically achieve at lower levels than Pakeha students.
3.2 Maori students are more likely than Pakeha students to leave school without any secondary qualifications.
3.3 Maori students are three to four times more likely to be truant from school than non-Maori students. Truancy rates are used to measure how well students are engaged in their education.
3.4 The majority of Maori children live in small communities with populations between 1,000 and 9.999. Students in geographically isolated areas and poorer communities are disadvantaged, as their schools are less likely to provide them with similar opportunities for education compared to urban and higher decile schools.
3.5 By 2040, the majority of the student population in New Zealand is predicated to be comprised of Maori and Pasifika students. Unless current Maori educational under-achievement is addressed, the result of this inequality will have a profound impact on New Zealand society in general.
4.1 The Ministry of Education should encourage education curriculum programmes that engage Maori participation and empower Maori students' sense of identity. These programmes need to encompass Maori culture, language and spiritual values, while at the same time involve whanau interaction. These programmes should be encouraged to expand into mainstream educational facilities, beginning with low decile schools. By engaging students in this holistic way, Maori truancy rates will be addressed, too.
4.2 The Ministry of Education should invest in a programme of training teachers to specialize in Maori education. This training should result in teachers who are able to teach and support Maori students according to the values set out in 4.1 along with facilitating relationships between schools and their communities.
4.3 The Ministry of Education should increase the pay rates for teachers in geographically isolated and poorer schools in order to attract and retain specialist teaching services and counter the current high staff turnover trends.
4.4 The Ministry of Education should look to cover student education-related costs for low decile schools and those in geographically isolated areas, if families can not afford to pay them, so that these students are not disadvantaged and will not miss out on educational opportunities that students at urban and higher decile schools have access to.
4.5 Schools should provide additional tuition to students who are struggling with literacy. This could take place in the form of community volunteers helping at the school, or on a local marae, under the supervision of a designated literacy specialist.References
Adams, P., Openshaw, R., & Hamer, J. (Eds). (2005). Education and Society in Aotearoa New Zealand. (2nd edition). Melbourne: Thompson Dunmore.
Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling: Best evidence synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of education, pp. 5-7. http://educationcounts.edcentre.govt.nz/publicationa/series/ibes/quality_te aching_for_diverse_students_in_schooling
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