A GISBORNE couple who spoke out on national TV last night over their two-year-old daughter learning the Maori language have sparked a big response.
Their concerns were televised in an interview on TV3’s Campbell Live on the first day of Maori Language Week, the theme of which this year is Arohatia te reo Maori — cherish the Maori language.
The couple, Phill and Hayley Foster, said they were upset to learn that children at the Victoria Childcare Centre were spoken to in Maori and that they sang Maori songs.
The Fosters wanted to pull their daughter out of the centre and made inquiries at other childcare facilities, but discovered te reo Maori was part of the curriculum and compulsorily available — which means the opportunity was there to have te reo Maori taught if whanau and communities wished.
They said they might have to find a way to educate their child privately.
“If she wants to learn the history, that is fine, but she doesn’t need to learn how to count to 10 in Maori. She doesn’t need to know the colours, she doesn’t need to know the toilet, or that food is kai,” said Mrs Foster.
“It is not spoken to her at home, why should it be spoken to her at her kindy?
“We are not of Maori culture, our daughter is not of Maori culture. So we don’t understand why our child should have to learn it when it is not in her everyday lifestyle,” she said.
Victoria Childcare senior teacher Karla Tardieu said there was national and international research that showed children from a very young age could acquire other languages at ease.
“We have two unique languages and we celebrate the uniqueness of one of those languages this week.
“It is important that we encourage our children to grow up to be respectful and responsive to the dual cultures of our country.”
The young preschooler is next due at Victoria Childcare Centre on Thursday. The teachers say they will welcome her.
When the Campbell Live programme aired, it sparked many comments to the Gisborne Herald Facebook page.
Terence Page said children learned faster in a fun environment.
“It has been proven that children who can speak more than one language or dialect are better learners.
“Nothing should be pushed on to anyone and, yes, I am Maori and I think the best language you can speak is the language of peace.”
Lesley Nia Nia said children should learn a variety of languages.
“Go to Germany and everyone can speak German. Visit France, everyone speaks French. But we forget that 30 years ago only 14 percent of Maori could hold a conversation in te reo Maori.
“We now have kohanga, Maori TV and radio and the luxury of choice as to where, what and how our children are educated.
“Maori Language Week, to me, is celebrating that. I still have a language and acknowledging and recognising that the education department and Government of my parents’ time, were thankfully not successful in completely exterminating what they believed to be a dying race and language . . . still here baby!”
Tanya Hawthorne said the couple did not come across very well on television but they were entitled to their opinion.