'Healthy debate' expected on compulsory Te Reo - Kaye

  • 26/04/2017

Incoming Education Minister Nikki Kaye says she expects a "healthy debate" about compulsory Te Reo Māori in schools, with the issue firmly on the agenda for this year's election.

Opposition parties Labour and the Greens both have policies for Te Reo to be taught in schools.

Ms Kaye, currently the Associate Minister of Education, will take over the education portfolio from next week after Hekia Parata steps down.

Ms Parata has said in principle she's against making learning the language compulsory. She says while she wants a bilingual nation, forcing people to learn isn't the way because "motivation is essential".

While Ms Kaye was reluctant to comment in detail about her policies until next week, she told Radio New Zealand one of the major issues would be making sure the workforce would be equipped for such a policy.

"There will be a healthy debate in terms of language, Labour has already signalled that at this election. I think we have some real issues in terms of the workforce around Te Reo and that's something I'll be looking at."

She says if there is a change in policy, the Government would need to be able to show it could be properly resourced.

On launching their policy for compulsory learning from Years 1 to 10 earlier this year, Greens MP and Māori development spokesperson Marama Davidson said learning the language would have benefits for all.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that our indigenous language not just survives, but thrives in Aotearoa, and introducing all children to it at school is one of the best ways to make that happen."

"Learning a second language has proven benefits for children, as does Māori students being immersed in their own culture," she said.

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins says in the short term, the party thought making the language compulsory in schools could backfire for some students.

"I'd strongly encourage all kids to learn a second language, and Te Reo Māori is a good language to learn", he said.

But he had concerns about a compulsory measure.

"If kids feel forced and don't want to learn it, it's likely to put them off all together."

In July last year, leader Andrew Little said he'd like to see Te Reo compulsory throughout primary school and "certainly the first couple of years of secondary school".