Māori education experts sceptical of Government's ambitious Te Reo strategy

The Government's plan to boost Te Reo teachers is being called a "pipe dream", as tertiary providers and schools struggle with dwindling numbers of students training to become teachers.

This comes as a Māori education working group has looks to lift the numbers of Te Reo teachers even further.

 As the head of Te Wananga Takiura in Auckland, Tawhiri Williams specialises in training Kura Kaupapa teachers. But he's worried about how few students were entering teacher training - with only 18 students in his first-year class. 

"Six years ago we'd probably have 30-odd students there - so there certainly has been a drop-off."

The Government has ambitious plans for Te Reo in our classrooms, with a goal to have 3000 teachers being able to teach and speak in Te Reo by 2025.

Williams believes it's good to dream big.

"But I think they would be having pipe dreams quite frankly if they're going to achieve that number within such a short time or four of five years."

Tawhiri Williams
Tawhiri Williams. Photo credit: The Hui

But it's a target the Māori Education Minister Kelvin Davis is backing - and he's adamant the Government doesn't have another KiwiBuild on its hands.

"Why would we revise numbers? We're trying to get a million speakers by 2040. Why bother resetting targets? We're just aiming for those targets.

"If we don't get them, it's not like we've failed. We've still got more people than ever speaking Māori and teaching and te reo Māori than we had before, and we'll just keep going."

 Te Kaupapa o Manurewa principal Daphne Mika said it was a daily struggle to find enough teachers, and tough to survive in Auckland as a first-year teacher.

"I'll let you in on a secret. When I started, my family lived on chicken frames and mince for a year. That's what how we struggled in Auckland when I first came here."

Kelvin Davis.
Kelvin Davis. Photo credit: The Hui

A Māori education group - the Māori Medium Workforce - is even more ambitious, and wants 6500 Te Reo teachers in the next 15 years. However, Williams said numbers shouldn't be the sole focus.

"Quality teachers, quality teaching, quality curriculum and quality philosophy I suppose is the one that I'm really on about, so we're not just educating from the jaw up - we're educating from the heart inside out."

The Hui