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Essay: Responsibilities of early childhood teachers

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  • Subject area(s): Education essays
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  • Published: 9 August 2018*
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  • Words: 2,105 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 9 (approx)
  • Tags: Child Development essays

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In New Zealand (NZ), the responsibilities of early childhood teachers in implimenting treaty based education have emerged from Te Tiriti O Waitangi/ The Treaty of Waitangi. This historically significant document was signed by representatives of the British Crown and NZ’s Maori Chiefs (Rangatira) in the year 1840. The treaty can be called a “symbol of enlightened, humane and generous respect for the rights of an indegineous population by a colonising government” (Richardson et al., 2005, p.670). This essay analyses how the treaty of waitangi laid the grounds for biculturalism in Aotearoa/NZ. It also studies initiatives that have been set into motion to provide equitable opportunities for Mãori in the sphere of education. A significant objective of the essay is to understand how and why the practices of early childhood education (ECE) teachers should uphold and support Kaupapa Maori, Treaty based Pedagogy and Te Whãriki.

From the historical perspective, we can say that NZ has been impacted by colonisation. By the late 1830’s there were more than 2000 British settlers in NZ, so the British crown felt the need to negotitate a treaty between the Crown and Mãori (Lee, Carr, Soutar & Mitchell, 2013). On the other side, the indigenous population were concerned about law and order issues emerging in NZ (Te Puni Kōkiri, 2001). They felt that increasing trade with other countries was proving to be a threat as foreigners bought and used more lands in the bay of islands (Simpson, 2015). Finally, the threat of a French invasion, led the Mãori to seek for protection from the British Crown (Binney, 2007). The treaty laid the foundation of biculturalism and equality in NZ. It represented “an agreement in which Mãori gave the Crown rights to govern and develop British settlement, while the Crown guaranteed Mãori full protection of their interests, status and full citizenship rights” (Waitangi Tribunal, 2012a).

From a contemporary perspective, it can be understood that the Mãori expected a sharing of power with the Crown, and not a complete handing over of the souverignity of the nation to the British Crown (Orange, 2004). After the signing of the treaty, there was a growing concern that Mãori should be civilised by encouraging them to adopt the English language and culture of the European settlers ( Simon &Tuhiwai Smith, 2001). This lead to the fact that the language and culture of the European settlers would be considered superior and promoted through education in schools, thereby alienating Mãori from their traditional roots. This did not align with the Treaty and hence three principles were derived from it to work towards achieving a bicultural environment in NZ. In 1988, The Royal comission of social policy outlined partnership, protection and participation as the principles that could be further developed with relevance to education (Bishop & Glynn, 1999).

According to Te Puni Kōkiri (2001), the third article of the treaty is linked to the protection of the maori people, their culture and property. Partnership and participation in the field of education can be understood as developing positive relationships with whanau, caregivers and children (Macfarlane & Macfarlane, 2012). The protection of the Maori can further be described as respecting and accepting their cultural identity in the sphere of education.

Keeping the principles in mind, the Ministry of Education (MoE), has endeavoured to initiate teaching and learning in NZ from a different perspective by laying the foreground of indigeneous knowledge in the curriculum (Hill & Sansom, 2010). “Improving educational outcomes for Mãori learners is a key priority for the education sector” (Macfarlane & Macfarlane, 2012). If children are to become successful learners, it is important that they develop strong foundations and a love for learning in their early years. Hence, a great responsibility to promote equitable learning opportunities for Māori tamariki lies on their kaiko’s shoulders. Nuthall (2001), said that if we as teachers are unaware of the extent to which culture determines how we practice and think about teaching, we will continue producing failures and inequalities. MoE outlined the requirement for ECE services to be responsive to the needs of Mãori tamarki and their whãnau, in it’s 10 year strategic plan in the year 2002 (Macfarlane & Macfarlane, 2012).

Government strategies and initiatives like Ka Hikitia and Kōhanga Reo, are set up to help Mãori children in achieving education success as Mãori and to restore their language and culture. Kōhanga Reo, was an initiative started in 1981 by Mãori women, to restore the Mãori language and culture, specifically in the education system. As per Hill & Sansom (2010), due to colonization by 1960’s, most of the Mãori children were speaking English as their first language and hence Mãori values, culture and language began dissipating. By opening various full immersion Mãori language ECE centers the focus was to enable every Mãori child to be bilingual by the time they were ready for school (Richardson et al., 2005). This initiative helped to revive the language and in 1987, the Mãori language act declared it as an official language of Aotearoa, NZ. Kōhanga Reo is an initiative that addresses four cornerstones through its kaupapa, which are, total immersion in te reo Mãori, whãnau involvement and responsibility, accountability and the health and well being of the mokopuna and whãnau. In a nutshell it can be said that Kōhanga Reo was not just a Mãori ECE centre, but a movement that intended that all whãnau got together to “support, share and strengthen” one another (Royal Tangaere, 2000) so that the Maori ways of being and learning could be given the respect they deserved.

The Tãtaiko, is an important resource that helps teachers and other professionals involved in the education sector to develop cultural competencies to accept and respect Mãori learners (MoE, 2011). The Graduating teacher standards are based on Tãtaiko competencies, which include Ako, Wãnanga, Manaakitanga, Tangata Whenuatanga and Whanaungatanga. Keeping the above mentioned in mind, two areas of teacher responsibilities emerge. First, it becomes the responsibility of the kaiako to make sure that they respond to the aspirations and expectations of parents and whãnau of tamariki Mãori. In 1979, Bronfenbrenner also proposed a bioecological model where he suggested that a child is an amalgamation of various environmental elements like family, community, early childhood centre, extended family and social and cultural values. Secondly, it is also their responsibility to encourage Mãori children to become competent and confident learners (Macfarlane & Macfarlane, 2012). Ka Hikitia is a government strategy that emphasizes the importance of teacher learner relationships within the bicultural context of NZ’s learning communities (MoE, 2011).

Maori theorist Durie has contributed towards laying emphasis on the preservation and promotion of Maori language, identity and culture. Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whã model is based on the maori philosophy towards health that has a holistic approach. It sees health as a four sided concept where, Te Taha Hinengaro (psychological health), Te Taha Wairua (spiritual health), Te Taha Tinana (physical health) and Te Taha Whanau (family health) are all given equal importance (“Whare Tapa Wha”, n.d.). The concept of including well being in the curriculum for ECE draws heavily from Durie’s theory.

Kaupapa Maori, treaty based pedagogy and Te whariki:

Another important endeavour to provide equitable opportunities for Mãori’s was the development of Te Whãriki, the first bicultural curriculum in Aotearoa NZ. According to Te Whãriki (MoE, 2017), Curriculum and pedagogy should be based on four principles that are “a synthesis of traditional maori thinking and socio cultural theorising”. ECE pedagogy should focus on whakamana (empowerment), kotahitanga (holistic development), whãnau tangata (family and community), ngã hononga (relationships). The theories and approaches promoted by Te Whãriki, include the kaopapa maori theory which gives a voice to maori aspirations in the sphere of education. The kaupapa maori theory is drawn from maori ways of knowing, being and doing. It is driven by whãnau, iwi and hapū aspirations and understandings (MoE, 2017). Te Whãriki, a unique bicultural curriculum developed in NZ is amongst the first few efforts to promote and respect the indegeneous language of Mãori in the education sector (Lee, Carr, Soutar & Mitchell, 2013).

Ritchie (2012), says that treaty based pedagogies have been identified to intergrate kaupapa maori understandings within maori ways of being, knowing and doing. This can be achieved by including a sense of “whanaungatan (relation
ships), wairuatanga (s
piritual interconnectedness), manaakitanga (caring, generosity and hospitality), and kaitiakitanga (guardianship and caring for the environment).”

It is believed that ECE teachers have a commitment to honour the treaty of waitangi so that equal opportunities are provided to mãori and other learners (May, 1992). If ECE educators are to achieve these expectations, they must understand, accept and respect Mãori values thereby becoming culturally responsive educators. Gay (2000), promoted the importance of culturally responsive learning models emphasizing teachers must transcend their own cultural biases to be able to develop pedagogies that will promote authentic student participation and achievement.

Ritchie (2013) says that through enactment of whakawhanaungatanga and demonstrating pedagogical intergration of kaupapa maori values, Te whãriki continues to hold promise for the future.

By using Te Whãriki as a guide to plan and implement learning programmes for maori children, ECE educators can meet their obligation to honour the treaty of waitangi.

Critical analysis of how these support your commitment to the process of ongoing bicultural development:

An early childhood teacher shares the responsibility to contribute towards bicultural development in Aotearoa/NZ since the historical Treaty of Waitangi promotes a more equitable society for all. Though Te Tiriti was signed with a faith that it would promote equality and harmony between the Pãkeha and Mãori, it has been a point of continued controversy. There have been countless events where the governments representing the British crown have repeatedly failed to protect Mãori (Lee, Carr, Soutar & Mitchell, 2013). As per Ritchie (2003), Aotearoa/NZ has seen a revitalization of Maōri language and culture led by its indegenous population, but even the development of Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa movements has not been able to completely eradicate the problems caused by the fact that many mãori children are being taught by teachers who speak only English and lack knoweldge of tikanga mãori. It has also been noted (Broström, 2003) that the philosophical nature of Te Whãriki leads to the fact that it lacks the what and how of other tradiotinal curriculum documents. This makes it challenging for non Maori educators to implement treaty based ECE.

On the other hand, NZ has been learning to cope with the acceptance of different cultures for over a century now and hence a postive sense of accepting and respecting new cultures of the world can often be observed in the country. It can be taken as a positive sign that the principle of tikanga maori encourages the people of NZ to become more culturally responsive by looking after people and nurturing human relationships ( manaakitanga and whanaungatanga). According to Harding, Sibley and Robertson (2010), NZ seems to differ from other post-colonial nations, as biculturalism helps to define the culture of NZ in a positively distinct way.

Implementing treaty based early childhood education is not an easy task in a nation that is transitioning between biculturalism and multiculturalism. However, a shift in paradigm for early childhood educators may be required so that they view themselves not as experts but as “facilitators of culturally inclusive practices” (Ritchie, 2003, p. 17).

Children are different but equal


It is the responsibility of a teacher to be informed, not ignorant about treaty based pedagogy and enthusiastic enough to keep developing their teaching practices with a holistic inclusive approach. A strong support towards inclusive pedagogy in ECE should reflect in every ECE educators personal philosophy. However, it can be seen that, an ideal curriculum founded upon biculturalism is yet to be fully realised in Aotearoa/NZ, but pathways have been set out to ensure that Maori beliefs and the Maori worldview have an important place in the curriculum (Hill & Sansom, 2010). A recent ERO study (2008) says that many ECE educators treat all their children equally and do not have different aspirations for Māori children. This might be an approach that is emerging in the wake of the fact that NZ is gradually turning towards multiculturalism. But the question still remains; does such an approach honour the treaty of Waitangi?

Since the Mãori culture and language were partly suppressed through the medium of education in schools after signing the treaty, reviving and respecting te reo Mãori me ngā tikanga maori should probably form the core of every ECE educator’s personal and professional philosophy.

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