Maori and Pasifika school leaders experiencing discrimination - report

A recent survey has highlighted racism in the education sector against Maori and Pacific Island teachers and staff.

New Zealand Educational Institute, The Ministry of Education and the Maori Principals all agree it is a problem that needs to be addresed. 

A survey by NZEI has found that a significant number of Maori and Pasifika school leaders have experienced discrimination in their work place on the basis of their ethnicity.

The Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey found that 27 percent of those surveyed reported their ethnicity had been a source of relationship tension during the past year, and 25.8 percent reported discrimination at work on the basis of their ethnicity NZEI said in a release.

This compares with 8.9 percent of non-Maori leaders experiencing tension or discrimination.

The biggest type of discrimination experienced was comments mae about Maori that caused offence.

Employees, Principals, and members and representatives of the school community were some of those responsible for the comments, NZEI said in a release.

New Zealand Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart says she's heard stories of racism from her Maori and Pasifika colleagues.

"I wasn't as shocked as some other people might be, that is the story of our Maori and Pasifika leaders,"

Ms Stuart says we need to acknowledge it and act on it moving forward.

In a statement, the Ministry of education says they are pleased NZEI has made the research public, and looks forward to addressing the issues with the education workforce.

 "It is an important issue to talk about and backs up findings by the Office of the Children's Commissioner of children's experiences of racism at school.

 "Regrettably discrimination still occurs in all walks of life. In schools, it has particularly harmful impacts adversely affecting a child's sense of self and their learning outcomes."

The Association of Maori Principals and the New Zealand Principals Federation agree racism in the workforce needs to stop, provide funded professional support and highlight what behaviour is not appropriate.

President of the Maori Principals association Myles Ferris says in 2015 there was a push for additional questions around racism and discrimination to be added to the survey that NZEI prepared.

"This was because we knew that there were additional pressures on Maori and Pasifika principals, on top of the already stressful job, we knew at our end that they were on the receiving end of racist actions and comments, "

"It was really important for us to highlight the challenges that are out there for Maori and Pasifika principals."

 Mr Ferris says it's important to have these conversations.

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"The organisations that are involved in education look to improve their cultural responsibilities and their cultural awareness and developing a stronger understanding of Te Reo Maori."

Mr Ferris says he's confident that the findings of this report will change the way people behave in the future.