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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 22. 14th September 1972

A Very Brief Historical Review

A Very Brief Historical Review

The early Missionaries irrespective of denomination set out to replace the indigenous moral and spiritual values by dogma, creed and moral philosophy of Christianity. And the means to achieve these ends was familiarity with Maori language and its use as the medium of instruction. It might well be that this policy facilitated the adjustment of early Maoris to Christianity and commerce; there is no doubt that literacy amonst Maoris was high.

In 1844, the language policy was changed so that the native population might be assimilated as rapidly as possible into the Pakeha. In 1858, the Administrative policy declared that the native missionary schools could only become eligible for a financial grant if English were made the language of instruction.

The aim to Europeanise the Maori people as fast as possible remained official policy until the early "thirties" of this century. Numerous Maoris can testify to being beaten soundly for speaking Maori in the school grounds. It was not until the establishment of the first few Maori District High Schools in 1940-41 that the teaching of Maori language was encouraged and it was included as a subject for School Certificate. Practically all the teachers in Native schools were Pakeha who did not themselves know the language. The reason given for the little encouragement of Maori language at this time (and also prior to it) was there were no teachers of Maori.

In 1955 the Minister of Education set up the Committee on Maori Education, whose recommendations became the basis of the Maori schools policy. So far as Maori language was concerned the Committee supported the teaching of the Maori language and recommended that everything possible be done to implement it; as a minority group with Pakeha children, the Maori child should feel personal worth, security, and a sense of identity.

In 1967 Maori language was taught in 6 District High Schools,

10 State Secondary Schools,

10 Private Secondary Schools (or Church Maori Boarding Schools).

It is estimated that in 1967 some 2000 students out of 14,000 were taught Maori at Secondary School, half of this 2000 was taught at Private Schools, and over a third of those attending Stale schools were taught in District High Schools.

To answer adequately the question of the place of Maori language in the education of Maoris, let me read to you some of the material which I collated from the replies of 6 private schools, two State Post-Primary Schools and two District High Schools, nearly all of which have rolls which are predominantly Maori.

1. Maori language is an integral part of a great heritage. It stimulates pride of race, self respect and self confidence. Without these a minority group can easily become depressed. Many ideas deep feelings, patterns of thought can be expressed adequately in Maori, but would sound banal in English.

2. It is believed that respect for and knowledge of Maori language plays an important part in the development of the student's personality and character.

3. A person who knows his own language and traditions feels more secure and is not likely to suffer from an inferiority complex.

4. In being able to communicate or participate on official Maori occasions a student's education does not alienate him from his own people.

5. An opportunity is provided for all students, European or Maori, to study a living language as opposed to a dead one.

In addition, one who knows the language or the customs of the Maori people, is a more complete New Zealander than he who has no such knowledge.

6. On the more practical plane, it is realised that for those going on to University a language is often needed and Maori suits a Maori student best, for those going to teachings the language can be most helpful, and there are many openings in legal work and Government departments for those who know Maori.