New Zealand’s geographical isolation has played a major role in shaping our education system and its emphasis on developing the skills for a self-sufficient society. From early on, the system has been characterised by three fundamental principles – that education is free, secular and compulsory for all.
The commitment to an inclusive education system has been supported by state investment in subsidising early childhood education, fully funding schooling and encouraging all levels of tertiary participation.
To minimise the costs of central administration and maximise community decision-making and ownership, New Zealand has one of the most devolved education systems in the world. Early childhood education, schools and tertiary providers all have strong links to the communities they serve and representation is supported through the design of the governance models.
A strength of the New Zealand system has been the way we have approached and benefited from the establishment of Māori-medium (indigenous/ first nation) education and culturally responsive practices. By empowering communities to develop their own education models and have a strong voice within the existing structures – we continue to learn how education can better serve learners and where traditional teaching/administration practices may need to give way to the needs of new generations.
While the New Zealand Curriculum is a very open (non-prescriptive) syllabus by world standards, the creation of the Māori-medium curriculum (Te Marautanga o Aotearoa) is not just a straight translation. The ownership of Māori education has extended to the development of a complementary (and independent) curriculum and its own expected standards of student progress (Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori).
Māori-medium education now spans the continuum from early childhood (kōhanga/puna reo) through primary school (kura), secondary school (wharekura) to tertiary study (wānanga) and is a stable feature of the education system.
We welcome the ability for GELP delegates to visit and explore the New Zealand education system and to appreciate the possibilities that a indigenous/first nation education system can open up for rethinking and evolving education at all levels.