The effects of schooling across three generations of Māori women.

Year: 2018

Author: Tocker, Kīmai

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Through tracing in detail, the story of schooling for three individuals, this presentation provides a rich description of the way that education impacted on the lives of Māori between the early 1900s and the year 2000.  While there is much research on the historical colonising effects of schooling on Māori and te reo Māori, this presentation brings alive these effects, and illustrates them in the everyday lived experience of women from three generations: my mother, myself, and my daughter.  The stories of the three different schooling experiences bring to life the dramatic changes during the 20th century in educational ideas about the place of Māori language and culture in New Zealand. 
Born into a traditional Māori world and secure in her identity, living as Māori was never an issue for my mother.  Her schooling, influenced by the 1930s Native Schools Curriculum, prepared her to stand tall in the Western world and she left school at ease with the languages and knowledge of two worlds, Māori and Pākehā.  Early 20th century attempts to have Māori educated in aspects of Western language and society did not overshadow the power of  Māori language and culture that was strong in the villages and tribal areas. 
By the time I entered formal education, Māori language use had weakened, due largely to the belief that English was the way of the future.  The resulting effect of parental encouragement to excel at English, and the monolingual education system did not support my identity as Māori or encourage me to live as Māori.  My own experience mapped on to the language loss that was discovered in 1977 by Richard Benton, whose research on how few people could fluently speak Māori shocked the Māori world. 
My daughter, born in the 1980s, lived during a crucial time in the regeneration of the ailing Māori language and is the product of a Māori-medium learning environment that aims to fit its students with the skills to stand strong as Māori and ‘to live as Māori’ in the wider world.  What my daughter learned at school flowed back into our home, encouraging me to learn my own language.  Living as Māori is taken for granted by my daughter and her friends who represent the hope for the Māori language that was nearly lost in the short span of three generations.