Education from a Māori point of view

A book by the educator and anthropologist Dame Joan Metge was launched at the University of Auckland last week.

Tauira – a word that in te reo (the Maori language) illuminatingly means both student and teacher introduces readers to Māori methods of teaching and learning.

Tauira is based on extensive interviews with 25 Maori people in the early 1980s.

“Although my name’s on the cover, it’s very much our book,” says Metge.

“The book helps us understand that period of time and the people who grew up and worked in it,” she says.

“But it also throws up ideas that are relevant to the present day situation in terms of different ways of learning.”

The book’s focus is on the role of education outside the classroom.

Metge shows that Māori ways of learning flourished alongside the school system, especially in rural Northland, the Bay of Plenty and on the East Cape.

“In those days, particularly, there was a tendency to equate education with schooling.”

“But children learn a lot of their knowledge and their personal identity outside of school.”

She says those educational practices had a particular form and philosophy.

Māori focused on learning by doing, teaching in context, learning in a group, memorising, and advancement when ready.

Parents, grandparents and community leaders imparted cultural knowledge as well as practical skills to the younger generation through daily life and storytelling, in whānau and community activities.

Dame Joan Metge, who is now 85, was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s inaugural Te Rangi Hiroa Medal in 1997 for her outstanding scientific research in the social sciences.

In 2006, she won the third Asia-Pacific Mediation Forum Peace Prize, previously won by José Ramos-Horta.


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