No Black-and-White Answers: Cultural Responsiveness and Māori Students
Māori underachievement is a major and persistent leadership challenge affecting everyone in the New Zealand education system. Historical achievement statistics clearly show that over 30 years of culturally responsive policies have not realized their aim of equalising national educational outcomes for Māori. This dissertation investigates the extent to which culturally responsive policies can improve Māori educational outcomes.
Arguably, Māori educational inequality is proving to be resistant to policy interventions because the major causes of it are structural in the socio-economic sense. The thrust of current policy holds individual schools and teachers responsible for ensuring that Māori students succeed. This success is meant to be attained by applying culturally responsive practice. This dissertation investigates the logic behind this policy, drawing on two research approaches, namely, critical literature review and narrative research.
The main cause of Māori educational disparity is socioeconomic inequity resulting from a history of deliberate policies to relegate Māori into relative poverty and maintain relative Pākehā privilege. Yet these histories are rarely recognized in everyday discourse about Māori education. What is recognized is that there are no quick fixes to Māori educational inequity. If socioeconomic inequality was fully acknowledged as a major cause of educational underachievement, then a logical step to take would be to make efforts to reduce inequality. Such logic would controvert the ideological basis of neoliberalism, and there are some signs in New Zealand politics of a shift away from neoliberalism.
Long term improvements to Māori educational achievement will need to come from a shift in thinking away from resolution or settlement, towards a mind frame of ongoing national relationship based on the Treaty of Waitangi, and acceptance of some incommensurable cultural differences.