NZ Herald 12:51 PM Monday May 5, 2014
Teachers bias against Māori pupils…
“Teachers have expressed racist views of their students, including one who told a researcher that he watched a police reality TV show and, "the suspects will always be Maori".
The quote above is from Hana Turner's thesis Teacher Expectations, Ethnicity and the Achievement Gap, submitted for her Master of Education degree. She has been a teacher since 1998.
Something to ignore?
No surprise that it drew a backlash from the established order, which claimed that the study sample of just 15 mathematics teachers and 361 year 9 and year 10 students was far too small to draw any meaningful conclusions – and, contrary to the thesis findings, the article goes on to tell us this was “a small study group and the vast majority of the profession work hard to address prejudice”.
Because it’s only a minority of teachers saying this…we should not be alarmed, shocked or angry about it…just ignore it! Just let it go! All I can think of is how many of these teachers teach our Māori students? …Our mokopuna? …What does it mean for our Māori students in those classrooms?
The teachers within this small study group may be playing the blame game, it's everyone else's fault — the students, their parents, their home environment — on the low achievement rate of Māori in their classes.
Really? I would be very interested in a nationwide survey of teachers with a meaningful statistical sample. But, who has the will and wherewithal to conduct such a survey? And, if such a study were conducted…we might not like the results.
Admittedly, on first reading the headline my Ngāpuhi warrior gene surged up inside of me, once again! But I calmed down and thought …” this isn’t new”.
With the publication of the updated Ministry of Education strategy, Kā Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017, the catchcry of Māori Achieving Success as Māori, and the term, Cultural Responsiveness leading thinking and initiatives in Aotearoa Education, one would imagine us a long way from comments like these. Maybe 10 years ago. But now?
Are the comments from these teachers, reported in Hana’s research, a slap in the face for the other teachers who work hard at being more culturally responsive? What about the highly respected in the secondary sector for shifting teacher practice in schools brought about by Te Kotahitanga and Te Kakano programmes? Has any of this really made a difference to the racism in some schools?
Here we are in May 2014 and the comments are still there. With Pasifika, Māori, and students with special education needs identified by the Ministry as being priority learners, one might have expected different attitudes and less vitriol from these teachers.
Is this what comes from accountability and emphasis on achievement data in schools? Teachers putting the blame elsewhere as to why Māori students in their class are failing?
We know from the evidence from: Te Kotahitanga Phase 1:
“This deficit theorising by teachers is the major impediment to Māori students' educational achievement for it results in teachers having low expectations of Māori students. This in turn creates a downward spiralling, self-fulfilling prophecy of Māori student achievement and failure” (R. Bishop, M. Berryman, S. Tiakiwai and C. Richardson, 2003).
We have the opportunity and tools to help biased teachers shift from fixity to become effective teachers
As facilitators, we all have the opportunity to work alongside teachers who are committed to working towards raising achievement for all students they teach. Once in a while you will work with a teacher that holds some of these negative assumptions. You will need to dig deep to work with that teacher. You will need to work to shift their understanding, their thinking in a culturally responsive way. You can support them to do this. You can support them to make a difference to the success of Māori students in their classes. You can support them to make the changes, to stop the blame game, to change their attitudes and take responsibility to educate our Māori students in a culturally responsive way. To shift their world of fixity to possibility. To support them to become effective teachers.
Research tells us that relationships and interactions between teachers and students in the classroom are key to effective teaching of Māori students.
So we must all be committed to shifting the thinking of those teachers to taking a non-deficit view of Māori students.
You can shift their thinking by….
- challenging teachers’ assumptions through questioning
- ask the teacher/s to qualify their statements, with evidence of their experiences or qualify research that informs their thinking
- share/model with teachers what you do in a classroom that affirms the identity of Māori students, and
- work alongside them to support their teaching of Māori students.
Call to action
We can make the difference for Māori students when working with all teachers.
A colleague from Te Arawa (Bay Of Plenty) who was also ready to go to war about this, said:
“These teachers are getting paid to give their best to Māori students and if this is all they can come up then they had better get out before the tsunami of whānau, hapu and iwi come pounding on their door!”
If only such a tidal wave of Māori outrage (like the thousands-strong ‘foreshore and seabed’ march to parliament) would happen!
I would welcome it with open arms – and ride that wave like a call to action – so that change would sweep right across the New Zealand education sector exposing attitudes of low expectation and negativity for what they truly are – the lazy way out.
Kua tawhiti ke to haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu…He nui rawa o mahi, kia kore e mahi tonu…
"You have come too far not to go further, you have done too much not to do more” – Sir James Henare
You might find these resources interesting:
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