He tini manu reo: learning te reo Māori through tertiary education

Publication Details

This report examines the size and impact of the provision of te reo Māori courses through tertiary education over the period from 2001 to 2005, in order to provide an information base for considering future directions for supporting te reo Māori through tertiary education and areas for further research.

Author(s): David Earle, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: April 2007

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Since 2001, there has been an unprecedented level of engagement in learning te reo Māori through tertiary education. This has involved over 100,000 learners making over 700,000 course enrolments across 51 different tertiary education providers.

Three different groups of students are looked at in the report:

  • those learning te reo through a te reo Māori programme
  • those learning te reo as part of other programmes
  • those who took only one or two courses over the five-year period.

Each of these groups has different characteristics in terms of students and providers. They also capture different pathways and motivations for learning te reo Māori. While the largest number of students enrolled for only one or two courses, students in te reo programmes made up the majority when measured in terms of equivalent full-time students.

Key findings

The main contribution of te reo provision through tertiary education in the period 2001 to 2005 has been to increase substantially the number of people with a basic understanding of the language, while also increasing the number of people with conversational fluency.

Tertiary education courses are not sufficient on their own to build conversational proficiency in te reo Māori. Students also need to be able to access a range of environments where the language is used and supported.

Around half of students studied te reo for only one year, and most are studying at the equivalent of senior secondary school. This reflects a growing awareness of the value of at least some knowledge of te reo to function well in New Zealand society. However, it also suggests that more could be done to encourage students to continue to be engaged in language learning, including offering improved pathways to further study and other language learning.

There have been high levels of participation by women, particularly in the 25 to 44 age group. Many of these women will be mothers, which suggests that tertiary education courses may be having a positive role in strengthening te reo Māori within the whānau and home environments.

The low male participation in te reo courses is of concern, particularly given that younger Māori men have lower proficiency than Māori women in the same age group. This could have implications in the future for maintaining aspects of tikanga Māori which are designated to men.

There are particular points where students appear to drop out of study because they were unable to pass the course assessments. Further analysis of the factors related to success or failure at these points would be worthwhile. There is a need to look at what further support and subsequent provision may be needed for these students in order to sustain their role in language revitalisation.

There are a number of areas where further research would be worthwhile, including factors relating to students success, connections between language learning in school and tertiary and the effect of teaching approaches and teacher background and knowledge.

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