Te Tiriti o Waitangi in schools
Te Tiriti in schools
Te Tiriti o Waitangi (te Tiriti) is an agreement between the British Crown (founder of the New Zealand Government) and rangatira who signed on behalf of their hapū.
Everyone who lives in Aotearoa New Zealand has a relationship with te Tiriti.
Te Tiriti enables the Crown to carry out its kāwanatanga role. This includes establishing and maintaining systems of government for everyone in Aotearoa – such as the education system.
Te Tiriti promised that Māori would have the ability to make decisions and manage their affairs. It also promised Māori tino rangatiratanga (full authority) over their taonga. Taonga can be intangible things like te reo Māori and mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and education).
Te Tiriti also promised that everyone has the same rights and privileges.
There are many examples of how Te Tiriti hasn’t been honoured by the New Zealand Government. Due to this, negative impacts have been felt widely, especially by Māori.
When we mention ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ or ‘Te Tiriti’ we’re referring to the Māori text, first signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi.
How is te Tiriti relevant at schools and kura?
In 2020, the Education and Training Act was passed. The purpose of the Act includes establishing and regulating “an education system that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi and supports Māori-Crown relationships.”
Schools and kura should understand and honour te Tiriti through their actions and decision making.
What responsibilities does my school board have to uphold te Tiriti?
You can see how your board is giving effect to te Tiriti in your school’s charter/strategic plan.
School boards have an objective to give effect to te Tiriti under the Education and Training Act.
The Act states three main ways a school can do this:
- Work to make sure the school’s plans, policies, and local curriculum reflect local tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori, and te ao Māori – for example, by consulting with your school’s Māori community about school rules and what they teach, or making sure teachers have training opportunities to support them to correctly teach and practice te reo Māori me ngā tikanga Māori.
- Take all reasonable steps to make instruction available in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori – for example, by showing that the board has a plan to teach te reo Māori across subjects, like mātauranga Māori in science. The board should also have a relationship with and take guidance from the local Māori community. “Reasonable steps” is explained below.
- Make sure all ākonga (Māori and non-Māori) achieve the same level of success in their learning – for example, by supporting Māori (by removing barriers to learning) to pass NCEA at the same rates as other learners. This could involve providing extra support to Māori learners if they need it.
These objectives are a starting point. School boards have the freedom to shape the curriculum according to the needs of the school community.
What are “reasonable steps”?
“Reasonable steps” depend on the situation. For example, if you would like your school to offer te reo, the school board should explore all the possible options that are available to them. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a school to offer te reo Māori within one month if there wasn’t a qualified teacher at the school. However, the school board could be expected to ask if there is a teacher at another school or in the area who would be able to teach the subject.
What responsibilities does my teacher have to uphold te Tiriti?
All registered teachers have to follow the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Responsibility.
The code states that teachers should have a comprehensive knowledge of te Tiriti and make it part of their teaching practice. For example, by:
- using te reo correctly and often in class
- teaching the history of Aotearoa New Zealand accurately.
If a teacher is going against this code, you might be able to use the code as basis to challenge them.
For more information, see “What do I do if I have a problem with a teacher” in “School governance and management”
You can read the Teaching Council’s Code of Professional Responsibility here
What responsibilities does my teacher have to support Māori learners?
The teaching code expects teachers to “affirm Māori learners as tangata whenua and support their educational aspirations.”
Your teacher should:
- encourage te reo in the classroom
- help you learn about things you are interested in
- know the local history of where you are from, and
- encourage you to explore your whakapapa in your learning.
If a teacher isn’t doing these things, you might be able to use the code as basis to challenge them.
For more information, see “What do I do if I have a problem with a teacher?” in the “School governance and management”
How does the text of te Tiriti about tino rangatiratanga apply to schools?
Article 2 of te Tiriti promises that Māori have the right to make decisions over their resources and taonga.
When a school board writes its strategic plan and bylaws (school rules), they must consult with the school community. This means the board should prioritise its relationships with and the voice of the school community. The school community includes:
- parents and guardians
- family/whānau of ākonga
the Māori community associated with the area that the school is in.
It also means the board and staff should be looking for opportunities to partner with Māori for the purpose of learner success.
Your voice should shape the school rules and strategic plans. This is the law under the Education and Training Act.
What should I do if I’m being treated unfairly at school because I’m Māori?
- Record incidents – Write down the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ of any experiences you’ve had that feel unfair.
- Raise the concern with a teacher, dean or principal – Make a complaint based on the school’s responsibility to eliminate racism, discrimination and achieve equal success for Māori.
If you’re not happy with how they handle it, contact your local Ministry of Education Office. Go to www.education.govt.nz/our-work/contact-us
If you’re being treated unfairly at school because you’re Māori, the school is neglecting its duty to give effect to Te Tiriti – as well as human rights law.
For more information, see “Discrimination in schools” and “Fixing problems and making complaints”