The ACT Party is blasting the Government for a "despicable" Ministry of Education initiative they say speaks of the importance of recognising white privilege.
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pushing back at comments by ACT leader David Seymour, saying no education resources use the words "white privilege".
According to a report by the NZ Herald last week, a Whangārei primary school pupil had to talk to their fellow students about what they had done to recognise their white privilege.
In 2018, the Ministry of Education began working with several Māori leaders about ways to strengthen ākonga Māori achievement and address bias. The ministry developed the kaupapa Te Hurihanganui, which it says "tests community-led approaches to addressing racism in the education system and improve outcomes for Māori learners and their whānau".
Seymour says such initiatives make society "uncomfortable".
"Let me give you a scenario; you've got a kid who may be not fed, not well-clothed, not loved, abused - they go to school and they're made to stand up and apologise for their privilege," he told The AM Show on Monday. "Why? Because of race."
Seymour is accusing the Government is trying to "unteach racism by making people apologise".
"It's making our society and our politics increasingly uncomfortable and I just wish they'd stop," he told host Duncan Garner.
"We're all about giving every kid equal rights and equal opportunity but having a state policy that further reinforces dividing kids up, based on who their ancestry was, is a massive step backwards."
Commenting on Seymour's remarks, Ardern said the words "white privilege" aren't used anywhere in New Zealand's education curriculum.
"If, indeed, it has been used - that just maybe the way it's been used in a particular classroom."
Ardern, appearing on The AM Show after Seymour, said she hoped the ACT leader didn't have an issue with students learning New Zealand history.
"Should we teach things like history in schools? Of course - I've seen a lot of support for that.
"Perhaps David Seymour has a particular issue with a particular teacher in a particular school.
"I think the idea of inflating this to be something that's happening across the country would not be a fair representation."
Last week, National leader Judith Collins also lashed out at the initiative.
"They are teaching children - little kids - that they should feel either angry at the kids sitting next door to them because apparently that kid’s got white privilege, or else the child itself - the white child or Pakeha child - should be feeling guilty because of this white privilege," she told Peter Williams on Magic Talk.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins was on Wednesday applauded in Parliament for saying he doesn't feel threatened by Māori history being taught in New Zealand schools - and it should include "the good, the bad, and the ugly".