Early Childhood Education

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He taonga te reo: Honouring te reo me ona tikanga1, the Māori language and culture, within early childhood education in Aotearoa2. Dr Jenny Ritchie, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Teacher Education, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand

Abstract This paper considers data from recent research which illustrates the ways in which tamariki (children), whānau (families) and educators are integrating the use of the Māori language within their everyday educational interactions, as mandated by the bilingual New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996). Languages reflect cultures, expressing our deeper meanings and representations. Inscribed within verbal and non-verbal languages are our ways of being, knowing and doing (Martin, 2008). Jeanette Rhedding-Jones has inquired in her Norwegian multicultural context as to “What kinds of constructions are the monocultural professionals creating for cross-cultural meetings and mergings?” (2001, p. 5). What follows is an exploration of strategies by which Māori ways of being, knowing and doing are being enacted through the medium of te reo in early childhood centres. Introduction Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996), the first bicultural education curriculum in Aotearoa, reaffirmed a commitment already widely acknowledged across the early childhood education sector in this country, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi3, and the validation and inclusion of te reo me ōna tikanga4 as an integrated component of early childhood education programmes. Te Whāriki contains strong clear statements of expectations for educators in terms of enacting te reo Māori within their teaching: New Zealand is the home of Māori language and culture: curriculum in early childhood settings should promote te reo and ngā tikanga Māori, making them visible and affirming their value for children from all cultural backgrounds. Adults working with children should demonstrate an understanding of the different iwi and the meaning of whānau and whanaungatanga5 (Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 42) The juxtaposition of the promotion of te reo and tikanga alongside whānau and whanaungatanga is insightful. Previous research had identified that as early childhood 1 2

Te reo is the Māori language, tikanga are Māori beliefs, values and cultural practices. Aotearoa is a Māori name for New Zealand. 3 Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between Māori chiefs and the British Crown, promised protections to Māori of their lands and taonga – everything of value to Māori , which includes their languages, beliefs, values and traditions. 4 Te reo is the Māori language and tikanga are Māori cultural practices. This phrase, literally, “the language and its cultural practices” demonstrates how intrinsically the language and culture are linked. 5 Iwi are tribes, whānau are families, and whanaungatanga is the building of relationships.

2 educators generate an environment reflective and inclusive of Māori values such as whanaungatanga, Māori families are more comfortable and become more involved within that early childhood setting (Ritchie, 2002). Te reo Māori has been severely jeopardised by the processes of colonisation. As Mere Skerrett has written: Māori ways of speaking were also colonised through the subjugation of te reo Māori, to be replaced by English. This, at times violent, process of colonisation caused a disruption in the intergenerational transmission of Māori language, Māori knowledge and, as a consequence, disrupted Māori lives and Māori societies. (2007, p. 7) Whānau Māori have consistently stated their preference that their children learn their language and culture within education contexts (AGB/McNair, 1992; M. Durie, 2001; Else, 1997; Te Puni Kōkiri/Ministry of Māori Development, 1998) in affirmation of their identity as Māori, since “Te reo Māori serves as the medium through which symbolic and cultural components are properly united and Māoriness most...
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