How should the education and training sector respond to the Tiriti o Waitangi provisions in the Act?

How should the education and training sector respond to the Tiriti o Waitangi provisions in the Act?

The education sector must respond to Tiriti o Waitangi provisions outlined in S9 of The Education and Training Act 2021

High-level expectations include honouring Te Tiriti, acknowledging its principles, and supporting Māori-Crown relationships.  Plans, policies and curricula are expected to reflect tikanga Māori, mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori. Instruction in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori are encouraged.  Schools are expected to achieve equitable outcomes for Māori students. 

The challenge is to understand Te Tiriti, including its context and limitations, and draw on guidance it can offer to achieve better outcomes for students and learners, including in workplace learning. 

Anne Salmond’s Iwi vs Kiwi: Beyond the Binary offers insights into Te Tiriti and the issues associated with it.  Te Tiriti can also be seen as a foundation for inclusive democracy in New Zealand. 

To achieve equitable outcomes for Māori and other New Zealanders school system performance must improve.  This requires rebalancing away from child-led learning to more direct instruction, more structured literacy, including phonics, and the development of genuinely national curricula so all students benefit from rich disciplinary knowledge.

Tino rangatiratanga is achieved when individuals and whānau have the education, income, assets and net worth to have choices in their lives, that is to self-determine.  Some rebalancing may be needed from meritocracy to equity-based approaches to education, workplace learning and labour market functioning.

Te Tiriti is not a detailed operational manual.  However, understanding Te Tiriti can inform how we relate to others in educational and work environments, with a particular focus on inclusiveness, equity and mana-enhancement. 

The Treaty/Tiriti is an international agreement that is a starting point for New Zealand’s constitutional evolution.  International treaties are enforceable domestically when they are translated into domestic law and regulation. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 established representative government in New Zealand and created one of the world’s oldest continuously operating Parliaments.

The New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 is now our key constitutional document. It recognises the Queen as head of state.  However, in practice the 1986 Act marks the point where the elected Parliament became fully sovereign, with the Crown’s roles being symbolic and procedural.  It is now Parliament not the Crown that makes laws.  It is the elected government and its executive that has relationships with its citizens, not Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth the Second or an ill-defined Crown.

The Treaty/Tiriti marks New Zealand becoming a British colony and the 1986 Act marks New Zealand becoming an independent democracy.

The Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are often seen as the same document in two different languages. 

The preamble to the English language Treaty of Waitangi states the need for the rule of law.  Article One asserts Crown sovereignty.  Article Two protects property rights.  Article Three makes Māori Crown subjects.  However, Te Tiriti is the more authoritative text.  It has more subtle nuances, was openly debated with rangatira, and of 540 Māori signatories all but 39 signed the Māori language version. 

We need to understand what Te Tiriti meant for the signatories in 1840.  We should avoid “presentism”, that is substituting what Te Tiriti actually says for what we would like it to say. For example, Te Tiriti refers to our country as ‘Nu Tirani’, a transliteration of New Zealand. The word ‘Aotearoa’ is not used and is a later neologism.  ‘Taonga’ in 1840 meant tangible property, not for example language, water or broadcasting spectrum. 

Before European contact, collective identity existed at iwi, hapu and whanau levels and there was no nationhood concept.  The 1844 Williams dictionary defines ‘maori’ to mean ‘normal’, ‘usual’ or ‘ordinary’.  The use of ‘Māori’ as a noun to describe an ethnic group came after Te Tiriti.

The Treaty of Waitangi is written in formal statecraft language, whilst Te Tiriti is more relational and personalised.  Anne Salmond argues that Te Tiriti is a multi-lateral document based on gift exchange, whakapapa relationships, and recognition of individuality and diversity within an equal rights framework. This contrasts with a supposed Māori-Crown equal partnership relationship that has no constitutional basis and leads to ‘iwi versus kiwi’ tension.

Whakapapa relationships are wider and more meaningful than ancestral bloodlines. The number of ancestors anyone has doubles with each generation – two parents, four grandparents, eight great grand-parents and so the genealogical record runs backwards into deep time.  Going back 33 generations (or about 1000 years) gives everyone 8,589, 934,592 ancestors.  Going back a few thousand years sees everyone’s family tree converging.  In Salmond’s conceptualisation, whakapapa can encompass holistic relationships going beyond bloodline and including connections with natural environments.  In Te Tiriti everyone is included in whakapapa networks and in whanaungatanga (kinship, close connections between people).

Rangatira rather than ariki acted for Māori in Te Tiriti discussions and ratification.  In traditional Māori society ‘ariki’ were first-born chiefs in high-ranking whanau.  However, rangatira as hapu chiefs had deeper links with their communities and the mana to speak for them.  Rangatira listened to their communities and wove together and promoted their views. To fulfil their role rangatira needed humility (māhakitanga), integrity, generosity, leadership and persuasiveness.  Rangatira were held accountable through their wider kin and other networks.

Salmond notes the number and diversity of those named in Te Tiriti.  They include Wikitoria, Te Kuini o Ingarani (Victoria, the Queen of England); nga tangata o tona iwi (her people who are immigrants to Nu Tirani); nga rangatira (the chiefs or hapu leaders); nga hapu (extended whanau or kin groups); te Kawana (the Governor); nga tangata maori o Nu Tirani (the ordinary people of New Zealand); and the nga tangata o Ingarani (people living in England).

Te Tiriti therefore acknowledges everyone, and in so doing gives people dignity and social standing.  Many Māori cultural exchanges acknowledge other’s mana and avoid devaluing it.  Manaakitanga (caring for others) requires mana-enhancing behaviour towards others.  This fosters collegiality and upholds the standing of individuals in educational institutions, workplaces and communities.  It makes for a better learning and workplace environment for all.

Te Tiriti comprises a preamble and three Articles.  In the preamble the Queen expresses her concern for rangatira, hapu, for nga tangata maori o Nu Tirani, and for nga tangata o tona iwi (those of her “tribe” who had immigrated).

In Te Tiriti Article One, rangatira ‘gift’ to the Queen “kawanatanga katoa o o ratou Wenu” (all the Governorship of their lands).  In Henry William’s translation, ‘kawanatanga’ is a neologism.  In Sir Hugh Kawharu’s view, ‘kawanatanga’ means ‘government’. 

Having observed British governance in Australia, rangatira understood it meant the power to make laws and enforce them, even on life and death matters.  For example, in December 1838 the New South Wales Governor George Gipps hung seven white settlers who had been found guilty of murdering 28 Aboriginals in the June 1838 Myall Creek Massacre. 

In 1840 Gipps countered speculation by Sydney-based investors in Māori land by proclaiming that no future titles to land bought in New Zealand would be recognised unless derived from a Crown grant. This now redundant provision was reflected in Article Two of the Treaty/Tiriti.

In Te Tiriti Article Two the Queen guarantees “te tino rangatiratanga” rights over lands, dwellings and other properties (taonga). This property rights protection was conferred on nga rangatira, nga hapu, and nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani (the chiefs, extended whanau and wider kin, and all New Zealand’s people).  It is likely that such explicit protections for all reflected not only Māori concerns but also British memories of the social devastation that crofters suffered during the Highland Clearances.

Tino rangatiratanga does not challenge the Crown’s Article One right to make and enforce laws and govern the country.  There is no rational or constitutional basis whatever in Te Tiriti for co-governance or equal partnership between Māori and the Crown.  However, the Treaty/Tiriti drafters understood that property rights protected by Magna Carta were associated with political rights. They also knew that English common law rights were implicit in tino rangatiratanga. 

In Tiriti Article Three the Queen promises to look after nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani (all New Zealand’s ordinary people), and to give them nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani, that is, all the ‘tikanga’ her subjects in England enjoyed.  In this context, ‘tikanga’ includes the rights of Crown subjects, and also the just and correct ways of doing things. 

Anne Salmond observes that in the Williams Māori dictionary ‘rite’ means ‘equivalent, balanced, alike’, and not ‘identical’.  For example, a koha is an appropriate gift as part of a long-term reciprocal relationship, rather than being the price paid in a self-contained and time-bound transaction. In the same spirit, Māori ‘sold’ or gifted land to Europeans to encourage trade relationships, foster literacy through missionary schools, and to access new food plants and domesticated animals, carpentry, flour mills, ship-building technology and so on.

Te Tiriti Article Three gives all New Zealanders equal rights as Crown subjects.  However, the signatories likely inferred that what things are done (kawa), and how they are done (tikanga) will at times differ between and within European and Māori communities.

Overall, Te Tiriti is a multi-level agreement that anticipated an evolving and reciprocal trust-based relationship.  It is egalitarian in conferring rights on all, rather than just on the powerful.  It fosters democracy since it reflects the large numbers of rangatira who acceded on behalf of ‘nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani.’  In contrast, the Crown’s position was determined by a few hereditary aristocrats and senior officials. 

What then are the implications of Te Tiriti for our education system?

Many Māori underachieve in education, especially as measured through such post-study outcomes as employment, incomes and avoided benefit dependency.  There are many reasons for this, including socioeconomic background, whanau mindsets, poor NCEA subject choices, cultural and geographical factors.

The most fundamental problem we face in education is our school sector’s performance decline over the last two decades. 

International metrics such as PISA, PIRLS and TIMS measure New Zealand’s school performance compared to other countries. In the early 2000s New Zealand was near the top of the OECD in schooling achievement.  By 2019 our scores in maths, reading and science had fallen both absolutely and relative to other countries.  In the latest OECD testing round, New Zealand recorded the strongest relationship between socioeconomic background and educational performance among all comparator English-speaking countries.

Māori would be major beneficiaries from enhanced school sector performance in literacy, numeracy and science, and from better informed disciplinary choices aligned to tertiary options and career pathways.

A balance is needed between student-led learning and direct disciplinary instruction. Children pick up socio-cultural knowledge outside school, but not core disciplinary knowledge.  Learning to speak a language is intuitive, however learning to write and to understand grammar and mathematical symbols have to be taught. 

New Zealand lacks knowledge-rich national curricula delivered to high standards consistently across all schools.  Schools are highly variable in what they deliver, and vulnerable students lose out.  Auckland University’s Elizabeth Rata and Briar Lipson through her New Zealand Initiative work have made a strong case for nationally-consistent curricula delivery.  This needs to be based on disciplinary knowledge that is powerful, transferable, and which creates the foundation for further learning.  The intent with curricula delivered across all schools is that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, share the same disciplinary and symbolic knowledge that is the foundation for higher education and lifelong learning. 

The New Zealand history national curriculum was a welcome first step.  However, the consultative draft focused on a narrow, race-based, ideological narrative.  Chillingly, it excluded the most bloody conflicts in our history – the Musket Wars.  This is akin to German history excluding mention of the Thirty Years War.  However, despite this one debacle the case for national curricula delivered in a consistent way across all schools is compelling.

Māori and other students who attain degree-level and higher qualifications generally do well in working life. However, better use can be made of post-study outcome data and labour market information to inform student choice.  Students must understand the NCEA subjects they need to take to participate in tertiary fields that will improve their socio-economic prospects. 

At tertiary education level, student retention and qualification completion have long been challenges for Māori and other students.  Tertiary institutions need to welcome students from all cultural backgrounds, whilst still treating all students as individuals.  Broad-based student support services, interventions triggered on cues that students are struggling, and effective careers services can all improve qualification completions and transitions to the workforce.

Free speech and critical thinking are increasingly threatened in universities.  Examples include the banning of Dr Don Brash from speaking at Massey University, and the illiberal social media storm targeting seven Auckland University professors who wrote a polite public letter expressing concerns over MoE initiatives relating to mātauranga Māori. 

MoE’s stated goal was parity for mātauranga Māori with other NCEA-credentialed knowledge, “particularly Western/Pakeha epistemologies.” The proposed new content aimed to “promote discussion of how science has been used as a rationale for colonisation of Māori and to explore the notion that science is a Western European invention and itself evidence of European dominance over Māori and other indigenous peoples.”

Auckland University initially fumbled in its response to the furore over the seven professors’ letter.  However, it regained its institutional composure and is scheduling a symposium on the relationship between mātauranga Māori and universal science.  In the tempest of words triggered by the professors’ letter no one was able to cite any Te Tiriti guidance that could be brought to bear.

Mātauranga Māori includes scientific knowledge as well as spiritual and sociocultural beliefs.  It is broad enough to encompass holistic, inductive and action research, and ways in which science can be held accountable to the community.  It can encompass how people work together, including in respectful and mana-enhancing ways. Some of the worst workplace bullying involves mana degradation, for example through people being ignored, excluded from networks and from key conversations.

Te Tiriti gives no guidance on universities’ core roles in innovation and in “generativity”.   Generativity encompasses teaching young people to think critically and creatively, and shaping a future that, being intergenerational, must have more rights than the present.  Te Tiriti is silent on generativity and on innovation more generally, however it does not constrain it – silence is not negation.

Education and training must support lifelong learning from early childhood through working lives. The education system supports equality of opportunity in support of a meritocratic system.  The more able or advantaged then compete to get to the top of their chosen careers.   However, the problem with such competitions is someone wins them.  There are far more losers or “also rans” than winners mounting the podium. 

Many influential philosophers, psychologists, behavioural geneticists and economists are now advocating moving the balance away from meritocracy and strengthening equity-based approaches to education and training, and to the organisation and structuring of labour markets.  Building on earlier Michael Young and John Rawls work, Michael Sandel argues that meritocracy-driven social mobility creates a minority elite of “winners”, whilst leaving most workers as relative or absolute “losers”.  Researchers such as Wilkinson & Pickett (The Spirit Level) and Case & Deacon (Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism) highlight the negative impacts relative income and status differences can have on health.

‘Equality of opportunity’ means everyone is treated the same regardless of their different attributes, circumstances and opportunities.  Some have good luck and some bad, “some rise by sin and some by virtue fall.” Failing to account for these differences and simply treating people as if they are the same can entrench inequality.

‘Equity’ goes further than equality of opportunity and means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed. This might mean giving disadvantaged students and learners active and tailored support to put them on a similar footing to their more advantaged peers. 

Kathryn Paige Harden seeks to recognise variance in populations in ways consistent with equity and social equality.  Reflecting Rawl’s influence, she argues it is our responsibility to arrange society so that it benefits everyone.  For workplace learning, Dani Rodrik proposes a focus on extending workers’ skills to enable them to develop in better jobs, and to adapt to and benefit from technological and workplace change.

Sandel, Harden, Rodrik and others are not isolated contrarians, and mindset change is happening internationally.  New Zealand has the government and industry institutions and initiatives that can support equity-based initiatives, for example MBIE, Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) and Industry Transformation Plans.  Any such initiatives New Zealand takes would have no direct origins in Te Tiriti, but would be consistent with the inclusive and equity themes that rangatira and the British Crown acceded to.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an inclusive, colour-blind, equal rights document which reflects wide-ranging input from rangatira and the Māori communities whose interests they acted for.  It is the starting point for New Zealand’s constitutional evolution as a democratic, rights-based country and civil society.  As such, undemocratic and race-based co-governance models such as are proposed in He Puapua conflict with and violate Te Tiriti.

Te Tiriti is too high-level to give specific guidance on how our education and training sector should operate.  However, it lends philosophical support for an education and training system that is equity-oriented, caters for diversity and individuality, and discovers and fosters individuals’ talent rather than assumes that “one size fits all”. 

Te Tiriti and its underlying tikanga also amplifies the role of networks between people, and tempers hubris and self-inflation with humility.  Consistent with this, if upholding people’s dignity and mana becomes a lived value in New Zealand educational institutions and workplaces it will do a lot of good in people’s lives.  Some of this good may be measurable, some ineffable, all will enhance wellbeing.

Acknowledgement: to Dame Anne Salmond for her deep insights into Tiriti and other issues.

About Peter Winsley

I’ve worked in policy and economics-related fields in New Zealand for many years. With qualifications and publications in economics, management and literature, I take a multidisciplinary perspective to how people’s lives can be enhanced. I love nature, literature, music, tramping, boating and my family.
This entry was posted in Constitutional and Treaty of Waitangi issues, Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How should the education and training sector respond to the Tiriti o Waitangi provisions in the Act?

  1. David Lillis says:

    Another worthy piece from Peter.
    One sentence resonates strongly – ‘Equity goes further than equality of opportunity and means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed’. Yes – governments around the world need to do more than provide mere equality of opportunity for disadvantaged groups. Possibly affirmative action, as in the US, is one way to go.

    Te Pūtahitanga calls for a policy approach that is enabled by, and responsive to, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Mātauranga Māori. It aims to value and utilise two of New Zealand’s rich knowledge systems – “western science” and Mātauranga Māori – so that scientific advice, and the policy that it informs, is relevant and draws from multiple sources of evidence. This report defines mātauranga Māori as a Māori knowledge ecosystem underpinned by kaupapa and tikanga Māori (customary practices and behaviours) and envisions an approach that resources and supports autonomous Māori science advice and decision-making alongside iwi-Crown partnership approaches. The report states that a treaty-led approach would invest strategically in the research, science and innovation that continues to drive Aotearoa (New Zealand) toward equitable health and well-being outcomes, while addressing the ongoing harms caused by colonialism and racism.

    Comment: Te Pūtahitanga is very worrying, as is the He Puapua report, which recommends that mātauranga Māori be valued equally and resourced equally to “western science”. This report articulates a plan to realise The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the year 2040. The vision of He Puapua is that, should Māori have the ability to exercise full authority over our lands, waters and natural resources, uphold our responsibilities as kaitiaki and implement indigenous solutions with resources and support to do so, Aotearoa will be a thriving country for all. The implications of the He Puapua report have raised considerable concerns within New Zealand. We are right to be worried.

    By the way – there is no such thing as Western Science and teaching indigenous knowledge as science is an appalling idea. And – are colonialism and racism causing ongoing harm? Maybe. Perhaps those of us with white skins simply do not see it.

    Tikanga Māori positioned at the centre of all political decision-making? Not sure about the desirability of positioning one relatively small demographic more centrally than others, even if it arrived before the others. On the other hand, there is an argument for greater assistance to Māori and other disadvantaged groups.

    An independent Māori health board at the national, regional or local levels, and iwi-led responses with more decision-making powers? Not sure about that either. Again – why Māori and not others?

    Control over Māori health moving into into Māori hands? An independent Māori Health Authority which also allows capacity and space for Iwi-specific responses? Maybe – but what about Pacific, Irish and Muslim immigrants?


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