Culture, language and identity

Published: 12 Jun 2017
Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua


We are a multicultural school existing in a bicultural nation. Tangata whenua will always have a special place regardless of how many cultures we have.

In response to student voice, this school sought external expertise to provide opportunities for the children to learn more about their identity, language and culture. For those involved, the opportunity to develop new knowledge and understandings is just the beginning of the journey.

Key messages:

  • “School’s about learning. It wouldn’t be that cool if you learnt all these things but you couldn’t learn about your own culture
  • Leadership needed to find expertise outside the school to provide a pathway that supported Māori to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.
  • An important focus was creating the opportunity for children to ‘bring their culture to the school’
  • Students’ growing confidence in their unique identity influenced their approach to learning in the classroom and contribution to the life of the school.

Things to think about:

  • What is the range of community expertise that you draw on to create opportunities for students to develop their language, culture and identity?
  • How might you build on what you are doing?

The evaluation indicators this video illustrates

  • Domain 3: Educationally powerful connections and relationships
    • Evaluation indicator
      • Community collaborations enrich opportunities for students to become confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners

This video is part of a series

This video is part of the series Improvement in Action Te Ahu Whakamua. We created this series to inspire schools with examples of success in action. These examples highlight the benefits of fulfilling the evaluation indicators we use to review schools.

Remote video URL

(There is chatter as a group of children wearing schoolbags cross the street. A man’s voice begins as a voiceover.)

We're a multicultural school, existing in a bicultural nation.

(The video changes to show the narrator, a man sitting in a school office. Text on the bottom of the screen identifies him as Laurie Thew, Principal, Manurewa Central School.)

So tangata whenua will always have a special place, regardless of how many cultures we have.

(Cut to Richard Hempo, a parent at Manurewa Central School. He stands outside the school, looking into the camera.)

It's easy to lose your identity with the things that the city has to offer and things Māori are being lost.

(The video returns to the children from the opening shot, Richard Hempo continues speaking. Two young boys run up the path to the school. A girl hugs another girl outside a playground.)

To learn it first-hand introduces you to a whole lot more, like spiritually and, of course, physically.

(The video is back to Laurie Thew in the office. As he speaks there is footage of children carrying musical instruments to class, a wall showing the school motto “Effort Brings Reward” in a variety of languages and photos of children. There are students playing outdoors and parents walking with their children outside the school.)

We thought, what can we do that will help our students develop that sense of belonging and bringing their culture to their school, if you like. Rather than us doing it, they can do it.

(The video cuts to Sandy Griffin, Deputy Principal, Manurewa Central School.)

A group of students from another school performed a haka.

(Her voiceover continues as the video shows a group of young boys outdoors. They each hold a large wooden staff and are being instructed in Mau Rākau by a teacher.)

And the kids were hugely motivated by how earnest these participants were and how committed they were and how serious and disciplined they were.

(Cut back to Sandy Griffin)

And so we looked into it.

(Cut back to Laurie Thew. As he speaks the video changes to show a group of boys sitting on the grass listening to a teacher.)

It's hard to find the right person, because you want someone who will exemplify the kind of things that you are trying to get across to them-- Māori boys.

(The teacher begins to speak, addressing the students)

So we've got the right attitude.

We've got the discipline.

We got the skills.

We just need to tune up those little bits.

(The camera remains with the boys, but the audio returns to Laurie Thew’s voiceover)

So the decision to do it's easy. It's getting it done properly is the tricky bit.

(The teacher addresses the class again as the camera pans across where the boys are sitting)

You can't be the best by being lazy.

You can't be the best by being half-pie.

You can't be the best by thinking you got lucky.

(Sandy Griffin’s voiceover plays while the teacher continues instructing the students)

We invited Matua Philip in. And we made available this programme.

(The teacher is now standing alone in front of a mural as he speaks directly to the camera. Text on the screen identifies him as Philip Repia, Kapa Haka teacher, Manurewa Central School.)

Yeah, I try to just relate it back to how much you value yourself.

I tell them a lot, I'm not the boss of you. You're the boss of yourself.

(The video returns to Phillip addressing the students)

If you act like a fool and a clown, people are going to treat you like a fool and a clown.

If you act sensible, people will respect you, eh?

(At the end of his speech the boys run across the playground to where someone is handing out the wooden staffs from earlier in the video. They line up and each take one. Phillip continues to speak as a voiceover.)

It gives them power over their own self.

They be where they want to be.

(Several of the boys are now indoors, sitting together on a couch. One of them speaks about the programme as the video returns to footage of the boys learning Mau Rākau.)

He's teaching us discipline and teaching us about our culture.

(Another boy begins to speak)

It's really good, because we're learning more about our Māori culture.

It's pretty important, because I didn't know those hakas and to do the Mau Rākau.

(Phillip instructs the students)

Keep the rākau straight.

Make your body strong.

(The video cuts back to the boys inside and a third boy speaks)

School is about learning. It wouldn't be that cool if you learned all these things but you wouldn't be able to learn about your own culture.

(We are back outside with the Mau Rākau class as a fourth boy speaks in voice over)

You're the boss of yourself.

And no one's the boss of you.

You control your actions and your mind.

And if you act silly, people will treat you silly.

(The camera briefly returns to the parent from earlier in the video, Richard Hempo, then cuts back to the Kapa Haka class as he speaks)

It's good to open them up and let them know a bit about who they are, where you come from, and the things your ancestors done. So I was proud of my son, because he had always said that he would never give it a go and he didn't really like it. And for him to charge head-on into it, I was really proud of him.

(We return to the boys on the couch and one of them speaks into the camera)

If Māori kids don't know their culture, it might be hard for them in the future.

(another of the boys on the couch speaks)

Yeah, it makes me ready for school work, like, make sure I do it properly, like how I did this properly.

(The camera changes to a woman sitting in an office. Text on the screen identifies her as Michelle Dibben, Deputy Principal, Manurewa Central School.)

We did another evaluation of the programme at the end of 2015 to ask them: OK, so what difference has it made to your learning?

(As Michelle continues speaking the camera cuts back to the boys outside, and then to inside a classroom. The boys enter the classroom, return to their desks, take out stationery and begin schoolwork.)

They felt they'd learned a lot more about self-respect, which had an impact back in the classroom and in the playground on the choices they were making.

They felt that they were more disciplined and more able to self-regulate, which is something that the teachers have been acknowledging as well.

(A woman now appears on the screen and begins to speak. The text reads Liane Mcleod, Year 5 & 6 Techer, Manurewa Central School.)

They're applying what they are doing in their tamatoa group to the classroom.

(As she speaks the camera returns to the boys in their classroom, focusing on their schoolwork)

Just watching them is awesome. Their heads are high. Their shoulders are back.

(The video returns to Liane Mcleod. The camera is now zoomed out enough to see a desk in the background, on which sits an ornate kete and a frame displaying a pounamu pikorua)

And they're just buzzing with pride now, instead of with their heads down.

(The video once again shows Sandy Griffin, Deputy Principal)

When we surveyed the children, the girls felt quite left-out.

(As Sandy continues speaking the camera shows several young girls learning in class, then cuts back to Philip Repia’s Kapa Haka class.)

And that just started the ball rolling again of finding out what there was available.

(We now see a group of girls doing a crafting activity outside with a teacher, polishing pieces of pāua shell.)

And so we came across Te Aho Tapu.

And like the boys, we've seen an immediate group of children sign-up for it. And they love it.

(A young girl’s voice speaks in voice over as the girls continue to polish their shells.)

She's teaching us how to do different things, like make awesome necklaces and self-management and things like that.

(The camera now shows the girl, who is sitting on a couch indoors. Another girl sitting next to her begins to speak as the camera returns to the girls outside.)

She teaches us things that I never knew. And-- It's good for people to learn their culture.

(A woman begins speaking)

It's vital for their identity. They know who they are if they can have somewhere to grow from.

(The video returns to Philip Repia standing in front of the mural. A woman now stands next to him. Text on the screen identifies as Ebony Repia, Te Aho Tapu Teacher, Manurewa Central School.)

They're more responsive in the learning environment.

(Ebony’s voiceover continues as the camera shows a young girl holding up a shell pendant she has made. The girls continue their polishing as the boys continue their Mau Rākau class in the background.)

It's setting them up with tools for life, with a mind-set to help them navigate the world.

So being aware of what's around them, making sure they maintain a respect for themselves that they can then give to others. You treat others kindly, you've been kind to yourself.

(The video returns to Principal Laurie Thew in the school office)

John Hattie talks about students who are physically present but psychologically absent. And that won't work.

(The girls activity continues as he speaks. They turn to look at the boys as they yell out as part of their routine.)

So we've got to have them psychologically present and engaged.

(Philip Repia now speaks, as the camera shows him instructing the Mau Rākau class.)

So if we raise the boy, they be good men, because they want to be good men, they're going to be the best men.

(We cut back to Phillip standing with Ebony)

And that's what I see when I look at them-- potential.