Why Kura Kaupapa is telling Government it needs equitable funding, doesn't want to be assimilated into mainstream

The Kura Kaupapa model provides far better results for Māori than mainstream education, data shows, and the Government is now keen to funnel as many Māori students as it can through that system.

But Kura Kaupapa officials are warning the Government that if more of these great results are wanted, they don't want to be assimilated into the mainstream, want to stay separate, and need the equitable funding they've never received.

"I'm very very sad to hear some of the stories here on how kura are struggling in an environment where the resources aren't flowing appropriately from the Government," said Professor Graham Smith, one of the founders of Kura Kaupapa's Te Aho Matua philosophy.

"Even more worried about the future policies that I see sitting on the table that in fact have no regard to the power of these schools to make a real difference for Māori."

Prof Smith said in the 40 years since the kura movement began, no Government has funded it fairly.

"It's a bit difficult to determine what the distance is between ignorance and ignoring."

But the results of Kura Kaupapa can't be ignored.

Pre-COVID-19, 64 percent of Māori in mainstream schooling were leaving with NCEA level 2. In kura, it was 79 percent.

And in the last year of school, it was clearer. Just 35 percent of Māori in mainstream schooling left with NCEA level 3, compared to 58 percent at kura.

In fact, it was four points ahead of the national average, with Māori beating the rest of their peers.

Six thousand students take part in 66 Kura Kaupapa, but there are 50,000 students all up in Māori education. Many are watching a treaty claim on Kura Kaupapa with interest.

"The Government has prevented the natural growth in the development of Kōhanga Reo, of Kura Kaupapa Māori, of kura a iwi, and it's time to put our hands in or to allow that sector to flourish," said Rawiri Wright, tumuaki of Te Rūnanga Nui.

Wright is the spokesperson for kura and is in no doubt why the teaching model gets better results for Māori than mainstream education.

"Hugely different, is radically different because it actually talks to the heart of the person, the spirit of the person, their entirety, not just to their mind."

Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis declined to comment due to the grievances being heard before the Tribunal, but Prime Minister and former Education Minister Chris Hipkins attempted to alleviate concerns about kaupapa Māori.

"We want to make sure that we are properly supporting that and properly resourcing that, and that doesn't mean treating them like mainstream schools," Hipkins said.

"When it comes to Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa and Wānanga they are a different part of our education system, they've got different characteristics, different ways of working and we have to make sure the funding model where we pay taxpayer subsidies to them reflect that."

New legislation is due any time now to introduce a specially designed system that would include teaching Māori in a mainstream setting as well appropriate funding for Kaupapa Māori.

However, Māori educational bodies such as Kura Kaupapa are no longer at the table, opting instead to go through the Waitangi Tribunal.

Why Kura Kaupapa is telling Government it needs equitable funding, doesn't want to be assimilated into mainstream