Culturally Responsive Early Childhood Education In New Zealand

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In this discussion I have explained about myself, my hobbies and the strategies I have used for learning te reo Māori. I have also brought out an understanding about karakia and its importance in the Māori world. I believe my discussion has provided a few ideas on how to learn the Māori language in a much more comprehensive way. I have also included a song which is helpful for learning the Māori dialect while making it enjoyable. Therefore, in my discussion, I have emphasized that learning the language will enhance our performance as early childhood educators as well as provide an effective means of communication with all students.

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In early childhood centres of New Zealand, it is very important to include te ao Māori since the Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. It is crucial that teachers provide an encouraging environment for Māori students as well their whānau and also to put emphasis on the bicultural aspect of an early childhood centre. This is because after the arrival of British colonies in New Zealand, the Māori culture and language started to diminish. In order to prevent this from happening inclusion of te reo Māori in an early childhood setting is imperative to make sure te ao Māori survives and thrives. Therefore, teachers must be aware of what te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and Treaty of Waitangi is, and the role of implementing these practices in early childhood centres. I have also discussed strategies that teachers can use to encourage the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education.

Te reo Māori fundamentally represents the Māori culture and identity. Language is the most unique aspect in any culture and this throws light on a culture’s native practices and methods. Language introduces us to a new perspective and environment that reflects the culture of the land. It also provides knowledge, skills and is also the key to valued belief. According to the Māori people te ao Māori was formed from the natural world and is one of the factors that constitute the Māori identity. It has many features and can be manifested in numerous ways. Māori language is the voice of the Māori culture, values and helps to share beliefs of a community. If the language of a particular community is gone, part of that culture and values will also be no more. This mandates the importance to include te reo Māori to save it from becoming extinct thereby preserving a culture from disappearing altogether. Research has proved that children who have acquired Māori language from infancy were able to grasp the rules of a language in a much easier way. Hence including te reo Māori in early childhood education is a necessary part of a child’s education. Children will find it much easier to learn if their native language spoken at home and their culture are given significance at their early childhood centres. The treaty that was signed in 1840 also says that it is important to make sure te reo Māori survives. Therefore inclusion of Māori language is mandatory in early childhood settings.

Tikanga Māori is defined as the Māori customary values, ideas, beliefs and practices. Tikanga can also be the rules for a certain action to be done. The Māori consider it as a blessing from their ancestors and it is something that must be nurtured and cherished. It is an important part of the Māori heritage, therefore it should be practiced, spoken about, evaluated and embraced. All tikanga is reinforced by values, which are Aroha, Whanaungatanga, and Manaakitanga. Aroha include love, compassion, and empathy for children parents and to the profession. Whanaungatanga includes the relationship, kingship and connection between the people in an early childhood setting. Manaakitanga includes hospitality, kindness, support, respect, and care for environment and people. In the Māori culture, children should be nurtured by considering Aroha Whanaungatanga, and Manaakitanga. These values predominantly focus on sustaining relationships with children, parents and colleagues through love, empathy, kindness and respect in an early childhood centre.

The Treaty of Waitangi is an agreement between two parties which are the Māori and the British and it represents the bicultural foundation of New Zealand. It has been put into place to protect the country against unruly behaviour. The Māori had believed that the treaty would be a sharing of authority. Three principles of the treaty is recommended for early childhood education in New Zealand to support a child’s learning. They are Partnership, participation and protection. Partnership in the treaty means the cooperation between Māori and British. This is applied to an early childhood centre where partnership is among the teachers, children and parents. The second principle which is Participation indicates the participation of parents in centres. The last principle which is protection talks about the protection of the Māori land, culture beliefs and language. This should be applied in an early childhood centre to encourage the use of language, and exhibits that represent Māori culture.

As kaiako, we should actively support the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education. One of the strategies that can be used is by speaking te reo Māori in daily practice. This includes using correct punctuations, sharing stories, and greeting children, parents and colleagues in Māori. This will help children to learn the language easily. Creating a positive relationship with the local whānau is also helpful. This is because they influence children’s language skills by narrating stories of local myths and legends, reading Māori books or even talking about the heritage and history to children. Another method is by demonstrating respect for tikanga through practice. This can be done by inviting local tohunga such as expert weavers and carvers to the centre to display their work and skills. Māori musical instruments can also be introduced to the children. Playing Māori music in the background will also encourage te ao Māori in early childhood setting.

Music is also a useful strategy for children to pick up words and phrases therefore developing their te reo Māori. Discussing and informing appropriate practices that is related to tikanga Māori to increase awareness of the partnership inherited with the treaty of Waitangi is also very helpful. Displaying language prompts is also an effective strategy which will help children develop the language more quickly and helps kaiako to extend their knowledge. Therefore, a symbiotic learning experience can be shared between the kaiako and the students in adopting te ao Māori into daily practices. Providing Māori and natural teaching resources will also support the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education. These methods not only improve the spoken language of the children but also gives them a sense of cultural identity as well as an enforcement towards values which are essential for a “human” existence. In this way the fundamental qualities that every human being must have is instilled at the childhood stage itself whilst learning te reo Māori.

In conclusion, the importance of te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and treaty of Waitangi in an early childhood centre has been emphasized. Its practices play a vital role in shaping the educational experience for students at an early childhood centre. I have also discussed strategies which early childhood educators can employ to build up the Māori language among children as well as support te ao Māori to ensure a culturally enriching education for children.

Reference List

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  13. Hayward, J. (2004). Te Tiriti O Waitangi- The treaty of Waitangi. In T. M. Ka’ai, J. C. Moorfield, M. P. J. Reilly, & S. Mosley (Eds. ), Ki te whaiao: An introduction to Māori culture and society (pp. 151-162). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education.
31 October 2020

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