Te Piko o te Māhuri: The key attributes of successful Kura Kaupapa Māori

Publication Details

The research project examines the key attributes of successful kura and how and why the attributes contribute to kura being successful. The research adopted a strengths based approach and focused on what is working, the strengths and resilience of kura, with the intention of promoting and building on the successes. The methodology implemented a case study approach involving 5 successful kura. The report addresses the outcomes and experiences sought and valued by whānau and iwi of the respective case study kura.

Author(s): Nuki Tākao, Denis Grennell, Kate McKegg and Nan Wehipeihana, Māreikura Limited.

Date Published: September 2010

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Chapter 2: Te Aho Matua

  1. Presented in the Māori language, Te Aho Matua is the foundation document and driving force for Kura Kaupapa Māori. It lays down the principles by which Kura Kaupapa Māori identify themselves as a unified group committed to a unique schooling system which they regard as being vital to the education of their children. Te Aho Matua provides policy guidelines for parents, teachers and Boards of Trustees in their respective roles and responsibilities (Education Review Office/Te Rūnanga Nui, 2008).
  2. Te Aho Matua has six sections2:
  • Te Ira Tangata (the human essence), affirms the nature of the child as a human being with spiritual, physical and emotional requirements
  • Te Reo (the language), deals with language policy and how the schools can best advance the language learning of their children
  • Ngā Iwi (the people), focuses on the social agencies which influence the development of children, in short, all those people with whom they interact as they make sense of their world and find their rightful place within it
  • Te Ao (the world), deals with the world which surrounds children and about which there are fundamental truths which affect their lives
  • Āhuatanga Ako (circumstances of learning), provides for every aspect of learning which the whānau feel is important for their children, as well as the requirements of the national curriculum
  • Ngā Tino Uaratanga (essential values), focuses on what the outcome might be for children who graduate from Kura Kaupapa Māori and defines the characteristics which Kura Kaupapa Māori aim to develop in their children.

  1. As the founding document for Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Aho Matua describes a Māori world view (Royal, 2008) of education, teaching and learning. The universality of Te Aho Matua means that is relevant and applicable across diverse settings as it both captures and articulates a Māori world view.
  2. Te Aho Matua allows each kura to uniquely interpret and give effect to its key principles. Over time, the way each kura interprets and expresses these key principles becomes accepted practice and embedded into the school culture. In turn this accepted teaching practice becomes ‘te kawa o te ako’ – the protocol of teaching and learning, developed by and unique to each kura.
  3. Whānau can relate to Te Aho Matua. It connects to who they are and their aspirations for their children. Not necessarily related by genealogy, these Kura Kaupapa Māori cohere around the Te Aho Matua kaupapa and the language. What draws them together is a vision of what it means to learn and succeed ‘as Māori’ as expressed through Te Aho Matua.
  4. Together these kura exhibit many of the principles and practices normally ascribed to hapū and iwi. Whānau come together and relate to one another not solely on the basis of genealogy and tribal relationships but through their collective commitment to Te Aho Matua.
  5. Successful kura not only create a context for education that is congruent with Māori values and aspirations, but become major contributors to the revitalisation of the Māori language and culture in their respective communities.
  6. Te Aho Matua is a blueprint for the expression of Māori values in education that has the potential to transform Māori communities. The authentic participation of whānau in the education of their children is evident. The many principles and practices expressed in Te Aho Matua, such as the speaking of Te Reo, and manaakitanga, have been affirmed in Māori homes. The huge potential for kura to serve as a foundation for the future development of families, of hapū and of iwi is unmistakeable.
  7. ‘Tāmaki Nui a Rua continues to be guided by and committed to a Te Aho Matua educational approach. The principal, Brian Paewai, is adamant that “the ceilings of Kura Kaupapa Māori principals’ offices should be lined with pages from Te Aho Matua, so that we never forget to be guided by its values and principles in all we think and do.’ – Tāmaki Nui a Rua Case Study.


  1. An English interpretation of Te Aho Matua, written by Dr Katerina Mataira is in Appendix 1.

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