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Maori language in the Education System.


        "The frustrations of being a Maori language teacher are essentially summed up in the feeling that the education system has invited you to be a mourner at the tangihanga of your culture, your language and yourself" [1]

The 1800s

1816:        The first mission school was set up by the Church Missionary Society (Anglican) in the Bay of Islands in 1816. The Wesleyans followed in 1822, and the Roman Catholics in 1838. The peak period of the Mission schools was in the 1830s and 1840s.

The missionaries sought to convert Maori people to Christianity, and along with this to initiate them "in the customs and manners of civilised life." [2] To this end they learnt the Maori language, taught in Maori and translated the Bible into Maori.

1830s onà During the 1830s there was a rapid spread of literacy among Maori. Those who learnt to read and write (in Maori) at the mission schools passed their knowledge on to others, and set up their own schools for the purpose and "it seems possible, indeed likely, that by the middle of the 19th century a higher proportion of the Maori than of the settlers were literate in their own language." [3]

1844:        Native Trust Ordinance 1844: While Fitzroy was governor, the N.Z. Legislative Council passed "An Ordinance for appointing a Board of Trustees for the Management of Property to be set apart for the Education and Advancement of the Native Race." The preamble reflects the thinking of the time:

        "Whereas the Native people of New Zealand are by natural endowment apt for the acquirement of the arts and habits of civilised life, and are capable of great moral and social advancement: And whereas large numbers of the said people are already desirous of being instructed in the English language and in English arts and usages: And whereas great disasters have fallen upon uncivilised nations on being brought into contact with Colonists from the nations of Europe, and in undertaking the colonisation of New Zealand Her Majesty's Government have recognised the duty of endeavouring by all practicable means to avert the like disasters from the Native people of these Islands, which object may best be attained by assimilating as speedily as possible the habits and usages of the Native to those of the European population."

Section 28 stated that the Ordinance would not come into effect until gazetted: the next Governor, Grey, did not do this. Nevertheless, the rationale of the early colonists was that:

        "Education was to be deliberately out of touch with the Maori environment in the belief that formal schooling could transform the Maori and fit him for a different environment. The Maori was to be lifted from one society to another." [4]

Initially it was presumed that this would be done through the mission schools with government help.

1847:        Education Ordinance: This was passed by the N.Z. Legislative Council and came into force under Grey's governorship, to provide government support for mission schools. English was a necessary part of the system; it was taught as a foreign language and the majority of the classes were taught in Maori.

        "The Maori and their teachers found out what everyone in such a situation finds out, that learning a foreign language is a long and difficult process, and particularly difficult in the absence of constant opportunity to hear the second language being spoken. In contrast to the ease with which the Maori had become literate in their own language, the teaching of English, spoken or written, met with little success" [5]

The 1850s

1858:        Native Schools Act: This Act provided for yearly government grants to church schools which provided a boarding school education and could, therefore, lift the Maori children out of their own environment.

The 1860s

1862:        Henry Taylor, Auckland Inspector of Native Schools, in a report to Parliament, noted 'some impediments to progress' in carrying on the work of civilization among the aboriginal native race, through the medium of schools:

        "The Native language itself is also another obstacle in the way of civilization, so long as it exists there is a barrier to the free and unrestrained intercourse which ought to exist between the two races, it shuts out the less civilized portion of the population from the benefits which intercourse with the more enlightened would confer. The School-room alone has power to break down this wall of partition between the two races. Too much attention cannot be devoted to this branch of Maori education. The Natives themselves are most anxious on this point. At present in common with many others who have inspected Native schools, I have to pronounce the teaching of English as almost a decided failure." [6]

1860s: During the Land Wars many missionaries and Maori walked away from the schools and from one another. There was considerable disillusionment among Maori towards the churches and the role they had played during the war. For their part the churches began to move away from their missionary work with Maori and their major focus now became the Pakeha settlers. Although church influence still continued in schools like Te Aute College, this marked the end of the churches taking primary responsibility for education. This now passed to the state and a considerable proportion of the cost de facto to Maori communities.

1867 Native Schools Act: This Act provided for the setting up of schools in Maori villages where "any considerable number of the male adult native inhabitants requested it, and for government support on the condition that the Maori community provided at least an acre of land, half the cost of the buildings (school room and teacher's residence) and 25% of the teacher's salary. The idea, which had been put forward by several Inspectors of Schools in the preceding years, was that Maori communities would be more likely to support schools which they had asked for and to which they had committed resources." [7]

Native Schools subsidised under the Act were now administered by the Native Affairs Department.

In lauding the 'user pays' principles inherent in the Bill, during its second reading, J.C. Richmond stated that:

        "for a people in the position of the Maori race it was a first condition of their progress to put them in the way of learning the language of the inhabitants and Government of the Colony. The Bill proceeded on the principle of subsidising results. Up to the present time little had been done in this way. Money had been spent on Maori schools, but little had been done in teaching the Maoris the English language." [8]

A little later in the debate, H. Carleton, a former Inspector of Native schools,

        "meant to say that things had now come to pass that it was necessary either to exterminate the Natives or to civilize them. They could not go on fighting them any longer. Honourable members were now no doubt well up in the financial question, and all would, he was sure, agree that another serious war would not only cripple the Colony, but would actually break its back. The idea of exterminating the natives could not for a moment be dreamed of in that House, and there was, therefore, no alternative but to vote for the measure then before the Houseà They could never civilize them through the medium of a language that was imperfect as a medium of thought. If they attempted it, failure was inevitable; and civilization could only be eventually carried out by means of a perfect language." [9]

The 1870s

1871 Native Schools Amendment Act: This dispensed with the requirement that Maori communities had to provide money for buildings and salaries, in order to make it easier to establish 'Native' schools. Maori communities still had to provide the land for the schools, and the Governor could now require them to give land to school trusts as endowments, in lieu of money for buildings and salaries.

However, the whole system of 'Native' schools was considered a transitory step towards assimilating Maori into ordinary district schools. [10] In this the school would be an agent in a more far-reaching change, one expressed succinctly by F.E. Maning when he wrote in 1873:

        "I have nothing to report except that if all your schools are going on as well as that of Wirinake there will soon be no Maoris in New Zealand." [11]

1870s - early 1900s: There was some Maori support for the Native schools and the English-only policy. A petition to Parliament of 337 Maori asked that 'there should not be a word of Maori allowed to be spoken in the school.'

However, movements which sought to retain Maori autonomy opposed the Native schools completely. The King movement ran its own schools, conducted entirely in Maori, and had its own Minister of Education. [12] King Tawhiao told the Government about 1880 "to cease surveying, cease selling, cease erecting schools." [13] Te Kooti warned Maori against the spiritual infection of the schools. [14] In the 1900s and 1910s Rua kenana's followers kept their children away from the schools. [15] It was about 1920 before schools for Maori children were established and regularly attended in all Maori tribal areas.

1877 Education Act: established the Education Department which was actually set up in 1879. It took over the running of the Native schools from the Native Affairs Department. James Pope became Inspector of Maori Schools, a position he held for 23 years. During that time he worked tirelessly and with considerable imagination to further the standard of education among Maori. In many ways his theories of education were well in advance of his time. He encouraged some use of Maori in the junior classes and he recognised that learning a foreign language is more successful, if the concepts used are familiar. To facilitate the use of these methods he wrote books like the Native School Reader in 1886 which included fables about birds and animals the children knew.

But Pope's rationale was still the complete assimilation of the Maori people. In his annual report in 1888 he wrote:

"The work of teaching the Maoris to speak, write and understand English is in importance second only to that of making them acquainted with European customs and ways of thinking, and so fitting them for becoming orderly and law-abiding citizens. Indeed, it might be maintained that the first-named of these operations is the more important seeing that the knowledge of English ways can hardly be obtained by Natives unacquainted with the language. To teach the Natives English is therefore the raison d'etre of Native schools. If they do this work well their existence is justified; if not, there can be little advantage in maintaining a separate order of schools for this purpose" [16]

1878:        John Thornton was appointed headmaster of Te Aute College. His style and attitudes complemented Pope's work in administration. When he became headmaster most church boarding schools for Maori went little further than the Standard 4 level achieved in the Native schools. Under Thornton, Te Aute became modelled on the English grammar school and within this context academic excellence was pursued and achieved. It was old boys of Te Aute who founded and led the Young Maori Party ù the underlying rationale was similar to that of Thornton and Pope ù the most effective way for Maori to survive and to succeed is by assimilation.

The 1880 - 1900

1900s: By the early 1900s increasing numbers of Maori schools were being transferred to education boards, as it was decided that the level of understanding of English made assimilation possible. At many schools the use of Maori was now completely excluded. Pope's successor as Inspector of Maori Schools, W.W. Bird endorsed this practice in his annual report in 1906:

        "I may inform teachers that it has been alleged that an important distinction exists between the Maori children attending a Board school and those attending one of our own Native schools ù namely, that the former speak English in the playground, while the latter speak Maori. I hope teachers will do their best to give this statement a practical denial, and to take every care to impress upon the children the necessity of practising outside school the lessons they learn within it." [17]

At times the Department of Education have denied an 'official' policy to exclude Maori in schools. When asked to comment on this from his own experience, the late Sir James Henare said:

"The facts are incontrovertible. If there was no such policy there was an extremely effective gentlemen's agreement." [18]

1909:        There were by this time more Maori children in Board schools than in Native schools. This process continued until 1969 when the last Maori schools were transferred to education board control.

1910 - 1930

1930s: Of every 1000 Maori pupils enrolled in Native or State schools only about 20 gained proficiency as against about 75 Pakeha children. [19] In a survey in 1930 it was estimated that 96.6% of children attending Maori schools spoke only Maori at home. [20]

For the first time, elements of Maori culture were introduced into the curriculum of the Maori schools, but the language itself was not taught. D.G. Ball, the Inspector of Maori Schools at this time, said in an interview in 1973:

        "I felt that we should make these schools Maori schools as far as we could. If I only knew then what I know now, I don't think we'd have had any problems, but I didn't know enough, and I grasped the superficial things. I said 'Let the kids talk Maori, let's have Maori legends, let's have Maori songs, haka, and dance, let's have Maori crafts in the school, but at the same time, of course, we've got to teach them English because they've still got to live in this new world'à But they were still English schools, with an English curriculum and with English teachers teaching the way they'd been taught." [21]

About the teaching of Maori language, he said:

        "In my time there was very little desire to it from the Maoris ù that the Maori language should be taught in school. Ngata himself said that Maori children had got to learn English. So there was not a great deal of pressure thereà Secondly, as far as I was concerned, I didn't speak Maori. Let's admit it ù that probably had some influence; how much I don't know.

The great majority of the teachers - 99% - didn't speak Maori. The training colleges were not interested in the Maori in those days at all. I don't think they knew the Maoris existed." [22]

Ngata is well remembered particularly by Pakeha for his support of the language and Pakeha educational policies of the time. His comments on the curriculum in a speech to the 1936 Conference on Maori Education, Health and Welfare, are often still quoted nowadays; that he would make "English first, second, third, fourth and all the rest of the subjects fifth." [23] What is not so often either quoted or remembered, is that within three years he had changed his mind about the importance of language. In 1939 he said:

        "that he had formerly opposed the teaching of Maori in native schools because he had believed there was not sufficient time for pupils to learn both Maori and English. Now he believed 'nothing was worse than for one to be with Maori features but without his own language.'" [24]

The 1940s

1941:        The first Maori district high school was set up. In these schools "the Maori language was usually included in the courses which were available." [25]

The 1950s

1951-1958:        "it was not until Dr Bruce G. Biggs was appointed Lecturer in Maori studies at the University of Auckland in 1951 that the language was actually taught by a permanent member of the faculty at any constituent college of the University of New Zealand, and Dr Biggs himself had to overcome entrenched opposition from many of his colleagues before Maori was recognised in 1958 as a language subject for the purpose of satisfying the University of Auckland's requirements for graduation." [26]

1953 - 1958: Hoani Waititi estimated that of Maori entering a number of secondary schools in the Auckland area during this period, 26% could speak Maori and 62% could understand it. [27]

1955: By this time there was considerable pressure both within the Department of Education and the NZEI to hasten the transfer of Maori schools to the control of education boards. However, a committee set up to investigate this came up against opposition from Maori to theses plans. There were six Maori on the committee ù the first time they had been included on a national committee to look into the education of Maori children.

The 1960s

1960: The 'Hunn Report' recommended that:

        "the school is the nursery of integration and the cause of race relations would therefore be best served by 'absorbing as many Maori children as possible into board schools'" [28]

The 1970 - 80s

1982:        First kohanga reo established at Waiwhetu in the Hutt Valley, "not because of the Department, but in spite of it." [29]

1983:        Of those sitting School Certificate Maori only 38 out of every 100 candidates were allowed to pass, because of the way the scaling system operated. Of those sitting Latin, German or French 80% were allowed to pass. In 1986 the Waitangi Tribunal had reported to it that "Only just over one third of Pakeha school-leavers complete their schooling without certificated attainment of three passes in School Certificate or better, but three-quarters of all Maori pupils leave school as 'uncertificated failures' (37% and 76% respectively)."

1984:        Maori Education Development Conference recommend:

        --         that Maori people have the right to 25% of vote education (i.e. $500,000,000)

        --         that in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights                 all Maori communities have the right to have their children taught in their mother                 tongue.

1985:        Hui Taumata (Maori Economic Summit) recommended:

        --        that one of the existing teachers' training colleges should be turned into a Maori                 Community College with a kaupapa Maori

1986:        416 kohanga reo operating, attended by more than 6000 children. Costs averaged out at $25 per week. But in spite of the effort being put in by Maori parents to ensure that their children learn their own language, they

        "complain that their efforts are nullified by the present education system and that their children lose their Maori fluency after six months or so at primary school where they are swamped with English and never hear so much as one word of Maori."

1986:        Department of Education submission to the Waitangi Tribunal outlined the Department's policies and philosophy on Maori language, which concluded that "the record to date is mixed". The Waitangi Tribunal noted the 'curious feature' that some statements in the submission appeared to concur almost exactly with the position of the Maori claimants, but stated baldly:

        "it is a classic example of British understatement to say as the report does 'The record to date is mixed.' We think the record to date is quite unmixed. It is a dismal failure and no amount of delicate phrasing can mask that fact."

1988:        Hui held to plan for an independent Maori Education Authority as a fully funded autonomous statutory body. The hui prepared the Matawaia Declaration, which states:

        "We recognise that some measures have been taken in recent times but consider that our children's needs cannot be met through a continuation of the present system of Pakeha control and veto of Maori aspirations for our children. It is time for change. Time for us to take control of our own destinies. We believe this development is both necessary and timely."

The 1990s

1991:        The Minister of Education, Dr Lockwood Smith announces that references to the Treaty of Waitangi (and equity), made obligatory by the previous government, will now become optional.



Maiki Marks: Waitangi Tribunal Report on Te Reo Maori


Samuel Marsden, about 1820, quoted in Barrington, J.H. and Beaglehole, Maori         Schools in a         Changing Society, Wellington, N. Z. Council for Educational Research,         1974 p.9.


Biggs, Bruce G., 1968. 'The Maori Language Past and Present' in Erik Schwimmer         (ed). The         Maori People in the Nineteen-Sixties pp 65-84. Auckland, Blackwood and         Janet Paul p.73.


Barrington and Beaglehloe, supra p.4.


Biggs, supra p.74.


AJHR, E-4, 1862, pp 35-8.


Barrington, J.N. 'Maori Scholastic Achievement: A Historical Review of Policies and         Provisions',         N.Z. Journal of Education Statistics, Vol.1, 1966 pp1-14.


NZ Parliamentary Debates, 1867.


ibid, pp862-3.


Barrington and Beaglehole, supra.


Maning to McLean, 1 November 1873, mcLean papers, ATL vol 12, p.22 quoted in         Barrington         and Beaglehole, supra p5.


Auckland Evening Star, 1/2/1878 quoted in Barrington and Beaglehole, supra p.120.


ibid, p.125.

14< .

Barrington, supra p.6.


Barrington and Beaglehole, supra p.140.


AJHR, 1888, E-2, p. 9.


ibid, 1906, E-6, pp 11-12.


Te Reo Maori Report, Waitangi Tribunal, Department of Justice, 1986, p.9.


AJJR, 1913, E-3 pp 7-10 quoted in Barrington and Beaglehole, supra.


Barrington and Beaglehole, supra


Ball, D.G., 1973. 'If I Only Knew What I Know Now', Education Vol. 22, no.3, pp         9-13




quoted in Barrington and Beaglehole, supra


ibid, pp 206-7


ibid, pp 234-5


Benton, Richard A., 1981 The Flight of the Amokura. Wellington N.Z.C.E.R., p. 26


Biggs, supra p. 75


Hunn Report, Department of Maori Affairs, 1960, quoted in Barrington & Beaglehole         p. 254


Te Reo Maori Report, supra p. 37.