It’s fantastic to see that the NZEI, New Zealand's largest education union, has come out in support of compulsory Te Reo in schools. This follows trade minister Tim Groser’s comments in April this year when he said Te Reo Māori should be taught to all New Zealand children from when their 5 years old. Strong evidence shows that teaching children more than one language at an early age will strengthen their abilities in not just language but in education and life more broadly also.
“NZEI National President, Ian Leckie says the organization agrees with the Trade Minister Tim Groser who says every five year old in New Zealand should be taught Maori.”
The support from the NZEI for this cause is heartening and shows not only increasing tolerance and pride in Te Reo from mainstream communities but also a commitment to ensuring the continued revival of our indigenous language and culture.
This is the key point. If the Government has the vision and intelligence to start to implement compulsory Te Reo then we can train many more Te Reo teachers in the near future and provide quality professional development to the current staff. If we do this, we will be well on the way towards bilingualism as a nation.
We know that Te Reo is still in a dire situation. Implementing this policy will be one sure way of seeing Te Reo being spoken widely and comfortably in mainstream society.
The latest census figures on Māori language use from 2006, show that only about 24% of the Māori population are able to hold a conversation about everyday things in Te Reo, in other words they have a good level of fluency. Of the 157,100 people (or 4% of the total New Zealand population) who could speak Māori in 2006, 84% were Māori.
These statistics are deeply concerning, and show we need a dramatic step change in Government policy and resourcing for the Te Reo sector. I like many of the suggestions from the Government’s review panel, Te Paepae Motuhake, including establishing a ministry for Te Reo Māori, and by helping iwi to lead the revitalization effort. It’s true that iwi should lead their local revitalization with an emphasis on normalizing Te Reo in homes. But we also need a strong Government strategy, focusing on education and broadcasting.
It would be good to see some leadership on this from within Parliament. There should be a cross party approach. There is clearly a growing momentum for this kaupapa.