The complexity of New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) system is defined by strategic focus on parents’ and communities’ empowerment, and by multicultural social diversity, among other factors. In this environment of complexity, maintaining the quality ECE for the bicultural society as a whole is a challenging task.
The principal point to be argued for is the suitability of Tataiako competencies toolkit (Teachers Council, 2011) in any educational context for Maori learners, which means it is possible and necessary to maintain the competencies across the whole range of ECE institutions and environments. This point can be justified by referring to integration of Tataiako into the general context of New Zealand teaching strategy and philosophy, to its conceptual roots within Maori worldview and learning paradigm, and to the large evidence base confirming the attitudes and practices the competencies require. Practically, the thesis can be further confirmed by identifying the teaching strategies and practices to be used in developing the competencies.
Context and approach
As Openshaw (2010) explains, the decentralizing reform of education system was largely informed by the development of Maori language revival movement and Maori-led educational initiatives in the earlier decades, resulting in a diverse range of ECE services presently available to Maori learners and communities. From biculturalist perspective, this complex environment is intended to leave behind the historical exclusionist education policy for Maori (cf. Waitangi Tribunal, 1999). It is thus quite natural for policymakers to attempt for cohesiveness of Maori-controlled and the so-called “mainstream” education system by means of integrated strategic frameworks.
The Tataiako toolkit is developed within the context of two major education strategies. Ka Hikitia (Ministry of Education, 2009) is targeted towards the mainstream schools and aims to improve educational achievement of Maori learners based on Maori potential paradigm. The paradigm itself, based on the ongoing research (Bishop and Berryman, 2010), opposes the teacher positioning as the change agent and facilitator for Maori learners to essentialist “deficit theorizing” approach to Maori education. The second major framework, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996), outlines the single integrated Early Childhood Curriculum for the ECE system as a whole. Conceptually, Tataiako shares Te Whariki’s emphasis on holistic, community-oriented and relationship-based development (p. 14).
While Tataiako competencies are best viewed as holistically related, a simple ad hoc relational model, aimed to understand and appreciate the specific contribution of each one, might, however, be useful for the discussion of their supportive evidence and practical development. The concept of Ako, the teacher’s responsibility for mutual learning (p. 14) is interpreted by Elsworth (2009) as a “mind sharing” through collaborative learning and research process. The Maori notion of Wananga can be seen as a particular context or environment for Ako practices, emphasizing Maori worldview and knowledge paradigm as a shared basis for learning process. The fundamental Maori value category of Manaakitanga and the relationship-building practices of Whanaungatanga are constitutive to the learning environment intended to be built as wananga. Through the actualization of wananga the learning process acquires the relation of Tangata Whenuatanga, i.e. the participation in the particular …