Streaming students is racist

streaming students

Streaming students by ability in schools is racist, researchers say. Yet streaming continues. This is despite evidence suggesting mixed-ability classes are more successful.

Amid a long-term push away from ability grouping, both the Ministry of Education and the Government support think tank Tokona Te Raki – Māori Futures Collective aim to stop this.

In a bid for more equity, the Christchurch organisation launched a new action plan on Monday to remove streaming from Aotearoa’s schools by 2030.

Called Kōkirihia, the Collective’s report has the Mātauranga Iwi Leaders Group’s endorsement. The Ministry of Education supported its release.

Researchers and report authors Eruera Tarena and Hana O’Regan (pictured) say the practice must be scrapped to make schools fairer for all students.

Tarena, who is Tokona te Raki’s executive director, says while streaming has had a place throughout the history of teaching, it’s time to re-evaluate it.

“The roots of streaming has been something that is deeply embedded in our history and education system,” he says.

“It’s the fact it’s so deeply rooted in our history that we actually have gone beyond the point where we question it and we see it as normal.”

New Zealand continues to have one of the highest rates of ability grouping in the developed world. It comes second in that equation – pipped to the post by Ireland.

The Ministry of Education discourages streaming. Regardless of this, decisions are left to individual school boards as to whether to use ability grouping systems on students.

Ditching streaming is part of an effort to find new ways to shift teaching to become more inclusive than it had been in the past, Tarena says.

“You can’t just stop streaming and teach in the same way,” he explains.

CORE Education chief executive Hana O’Regan isn’t a fan of streaming either.

She argues the practice creates racial inequity for Māori and Pacific students.

“It has hugely damaging impacts on a lot of Māori and Pasifika, But also, what we know is that it’s a behaviour which is changeable. What’s fantastic is that we know the solution.

“There’s a whole bunch of courageous teachers who have transitioned away from streaming and most often they use mixed-ability teaching” she says.

“What we know from the evidence is that when you have these mixed abilities, everyone benefits, but in particular, Māori and Pasifika students’ achievement rates go through the roof.”

O’Regan says the evidence shows all students benefit from the removal of streaming.

It is important not to be “fearful” of making changes to the education system.

“When we think about our younger and faster growing Māori and Pasifika populations, who are going to be a much larger proportion of our population and workforce in the future — we can’t afford to continue a practice we know creates racial inequity.

“Which, to be blunt, means it is a racist practice.”


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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