Education Ministry Report says Māori students discrimination more likely

By Tema Hemi

It’s a parent’s nightmare to learn that their children are victims of discrimination and they are being victimised by the very teachers entrusted to nurture them.  

New Zealand Māori Principals Association president Myles Ferris is not surprised to learn that Moananui-a-Kiwa (Māori and Pacific) teenagers are more likely to suffer ethnicity-related discrimination at school.

Ferris says, "It’s never a nice thing for our kids to be traumatised in that way. With feelings of inadequacy because of the fact that they are Māori".

In recent Ministry consultations with Moananui-a-Kiwa students had claimed that racism and discrimination was being experienced at school and so the Ministry launched an investigation to establish the extent of the issue.

Titled “He Whakaaro”, the Ministry of Education report was released this week and it confirms the truth of the students’ allegations.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins says, "Look it’s not ok. We know there is still a lot of unconscious bias in our school communities thats something we're tackling head on."

Minister Hipkins is confident that a resolution to these issues lies within openly speaking about these sorts of issues with parents. 

Hipkins stated, "Of course all parents I think are concerned about the welfare of their children while they're at school. They want to know their kids are safe, that they're happy, that they're being included, that they're being well taught.  

The ministry hopes initiatives including Te Hurihanganui, a programme aimed at tackling cultural bias, would help improve the figures.

The National Party spokesperson on Education Nikki Kaye says, "We have to do better to improve our education system to ensure every child is not discriminated against. We also need to ensure that children are safe."

Hipkins also says, "We know we've got programs that make a big difference. Programs like Te Kōtahitanga for example that are about surfacing those issue around unconscious bias and encouraging the teaching community to address those."

Myles Ferris says he receives reports regularly from parents across the country who ask what can be done to fix the issue.

Ferris says, "Like stand downs and suspensions for example. How Māori kids realise and know when they've done something wrong, what they don’t always understand is why is it they get stood down or suspended when other kids don’t."

The He Whakaaro Report figures were based on new analysis of data gathered in the Youth 2000 University of Auckland survey of 8500 teenagers in 2012.