From the Margins to the Centre:
Repositioning Māori at the centre
of early childhood education in
Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Dr. Jenny Ritchie, University of Waikato
Cheryl Rau, University of Waikato
pushing the boundaries for change
honoring the child, honoring equity
4th international conference
11th - 14th November 2004
Overview of Workshop
 Colonisation as context
 Early childhood
education as
 Research design
 Narratives
 Workshopping ideas
Legacy from the Past
Te Tiriti o Waitangi:
Allowed for British
governance, and in
exchange guaranteed to
Maori the protection of
•belief systems
•and self-determination
Impacting Realities
Assumption of
sovereignty by the
Maori were
marginalized from
with consequent
losses of:
and spiritual and
physical wellbeing
Education as Agent of
 Māori were subjected to processes that
disregarded their ways of being and
knowing, as contained within their language
and tikanga (cultural practices) (Durie,
 Dominant cultures have controlled
educational discourses, silencing those on
the margins (Delpit, 1988)
 Early childhood education is a site of cultural
transmission, within which discourses of
racism and colonisation are inadvertently
perpetuated (Canella, 1997, 1999, 2000). 5
Moving beyond colonisation
 Requires major transformation of colonial
institutions – power sharing, multiple perspectives
 Kaupapa Māori describes the practice and
philosophy of living by Māori cultural values, and
as such is also a vehicle of decolonisation,
underpinning Māori conscientisation, resistance
and transformative praxis within education (Smith,
Early childhood education as
transformative site
 The early childhood sector has been
particularly progressive in its readiness to be
responsive to Māori concerns, although this
progress hasn’t been achieved without
ongoing tensions and debate (May, 2001).
 Early childhood centres provide the potential
for intergenerational involvement, enhancing
transformative possibilities.
Te Whāriki
The early childhood curriculum
actively contributes towards
countering racism and other
forms of prejudice (p. 18).
 The expectations of adults are powerful
influences on children’s lives. If adults
are to make informed observations of
children, they should recognise their own
beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes and
the influence these will have on the
children (p. 30).
Te Whāriki recognises:
 New Zealand is the home of Māori language
and culture: curriculum in early childhood
settings should promote te reo and ngā
tikanga Māori, making them visible and
affirming their value for children from all
cultural backgrounds (p. 42)
Implementing Te Whāriki?
 (93.1 %) of early childhood teachers working
in services other than Kōhanga Reo, the
Māori immersion centres, are not Māori
(Ministry of Education, 2004)
 Māori colleagues, who unlike their Pākehā
colleagues, are bicultural, are repositories of
the expertise required to implement Te
Two interwoven projects
 Whakawhanaungatanga – partnerships in
bicultural development in early childhood
care and education (Jenny Ritchie and
Cheryl Rau
 Māori perspectives on pathways to building
bicultural capacity in early childhood care
and education (Cheryl Rau)
Research Design
 Data drawn from the narratives
– early childhood teachers
– professional development
– iwi (tribal) education authority
– and teacher educators
Collaborative processes
 Co-design and cotheorising, utilising
– Whakawhanaungatanga
– kanohi ki te kanohi
– korero (dialogue)
– hui (meetings)
*Kia ora, I've been having a bit of a think before
replying to this topic. I think one of the biggest
values of Māori that we can value is Māori
– positions Māori people as central to
– consistent with Kaupapa Māori theory,
prioritising and affirming Māori knowledge
and belief systems
Tikanga – Māori protocols
*Not having food as a play material at the centre.
The reason being that kai is kai and is not to be
played with. We do not use any food products at
all. Playdough is replaced by two types of clay,
sawdust dough, plasticine (you can get some
really great plasticine these days!) and we are
continually looking for other alternatives. I hear
that bees wax is also great for the tamariki to use.
We don't use corn flour for fingerpaint but find
other alternatives.
Tapu and noa
 Ensure spiritual wellbeing
is maintained
 Tapu is a state of
heightened spiritual
consciousness, and noa is
the opposite, the state of
being spiritually ordinary.
 Food falls into the noa category, and is not to be
associated with the highly sacred practices of creating
artefacts, since this would be a spiritual violation of this
creative process.
Whangaia te whānau
*Cooking is also an important part of our
programme and especially some wonderful
delicacies such as boil up - pork bones and
puha from the garden, fish heads, fried
bread, kai moana [seafood] galore etc etc.
We grow lots of veges in our gardens and
the whānau and community are welcome to
help themselves to this kai.
 obligation to provide hospitality and
sustenance to visitors. This provision
enhances the mana (prestige) of the provider.
 traditional kai affirms and nurtures the tamariki
and whānau present, provides a tangible link
to their culture, as well as the physical and
spiritual sustenance.
*The centre is seen as belonging to the
whānau. They have access to all the
kindergarten. Office, kitchen etc. The
computer in the office is for whānau to use
especially if they require it for study. We are
mindful of the confidentiality factor and
always ensure that nothing confidential is
left on the desk.
Tātou tātou
 recognition that resources are there to be
utilised by the collective.
 equalising of power dynamics between
teachers and whānau.
 early childhood centre becomes a centre for
community learning (Corson, 1999).
*We have mixed aged grouping at
the kindergarten. This came about
as a need within the community.
Transport is a barrier when it comes
to the tamariki attending regularly.
We have a high proportion of
siblings/whaanau attending in the
same session.
Whānau grouping
*Whānau grouping means that as teachers
we have to really get to know the tamariki
well and the activities and the way the
programme is structured has to cater for all
age groups and abilities. Tuakana/teina
relationships mean that there is a lot of
opportunities for leadership and support for
each other.
Valuing what works for Māori
*I suppose valuing what works best in
each individual community and as Māori
kaiako being able to support this
appears to work well.
 Establishing a community of practice shared
histories, values and knowledges mediated
and owned by that community (Anning, 2004).
 A community-responsive programme (Corson,
Kaiako Tuarua
*Ngā whakaaro [the thinking] in this
kindergarten is based on our philosophy …
which links to… Te Whāriki and includes te Ao
Māori as a natural part of the programme.
 Te Whāriki enacted in its bicultural intention
 Māori values intrinsic to her work and her
*My kaupapa (philosophy) is that we
all one big family and we come
together for the benefit of our
children. These are my mokopuna
(grandchildren). Each child is unique
in their own way and their whānau
are my whānau, so welcome to X
kindergarten everyone!
*My tamariki… go
home and ako (teach)
their mātua as well
so everybody is
included in this
 Whakamana
 Akoranga
 Kotahitanga
Taonga tuku iho
*I look at the reo especially
the tikanga because that
keeps me grounded
because of the lessons
we’ve been gifted and
we’re here to do a job not
for ourselves but for our
rangatira our tupuna but
families that have gone
before us - they have led
the way for us.
* It’s trusting and believing in that person
because if they don’t trust you they won’t do
anything for you. … Come down to the
level that they’re on and then slowly filter the
knowledge so you’re feeding them try you’re
also feeding the parents and you’re opening
their eyes up to a bigger brighter world.
 Responsive and reciprocal relationships
He Taura Whiri
 Marcelle Townsend-Cross, an indigenous
Australian early childhood academic said
“True respect is a deep emotional
relationship developed through
understanding and connectedness”
(Townsend-Cross, 2004).
Transformative praxis
 This is a transformation of the traditional
monocultural western kindergarten
programme, a disruption of the
pervasiveness of the hegemonic discourses
that have dominated early childhood
practice in this country. These teachers are
creating space in which Māori ways of being
and knowing are ‘normal’ (Jenkins &
Pihama, 2001).
Tino Rangatiratanga
 collectively reshaping early childhood
provision in response to their
communities’ values and needs.
 Arohia Durie has described tino
rangatiratanga as “a theory of collective
action” (1994, p. 113).
 These narratives and strategies of Maori
moving from the margins to the centre of
early childhood practice in Aotearoa
provide inspiration for those of us who
are seeking to envision the potentialities
of Te Whariki, through their realisation of
Maori centred pathways.
Mana wahine
 Linda Smith has stated that:
“By just being a Māori and a woman, who
thinks about her life and her people - one is
on the cutting edge. That is where Māori
women live - on the cutting edge of theory”
(cited in Te Awekotutu, 1992, p. 54) .
Mana Māori
 Mason Durie suggests we strive for:
“a balancing of forces so that the interface
can be converted from a place of collision
and lost potential, to a site of growth and
innovation, both for educational
advancement and the advancement of the
nation” (Durie, 2003, p.19).
 These Maori educators are exercising
their tino rangatiratanga, which Arohia
Durie has described as “a theory of
collective action” (1994, p. 113). Their
practice is responsive to the values and
needs of the communities in which they
work, reflecting qualities of listening,
welcoming, and hospitality (Dahlberg,
Korero Whakamutunga
 In transforming their kindergarten practice around
Maori values and priorities, they are creating
spaces in which Māori ways of being and knowing
are ‘normal’ rather than ‘other’ (Jenkins & Pihama,
 These Maori led pathways are models for moving
Maori epistemologies from the margins to the
centre of early childhood practice in Aotearoa.
Discussing these narratives can serve to disrupt
our taken-for-granted assumptions of what
constitutes “normal” early childhood education

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