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Te Ao Haka

A new era in education

Manutuke School is among schools across New Zealand breaking new educational ground with the introduction of NCEA-recognised Maori performing arts into its curriculum.

More than 30 secondary schools and kura across the country are piloting the new subject — Te Ao Haka — at all NCEA levels.

The subject gives students a strong foundation on which they can build themselves, Manutuke school kaiako/teacher Dayne Hollis says.

“It helps students with their identity — who they are culturally — and from those contexts they are able to shape themselves using Maori perspectives, using the stories from where they're from.”

Te Ao Haka is a performance-based art form grounded in Maori culture, language and identity.

Students will develop a range of abilities like leadership and communication skills, along with lateral and critical thinking.

Mr Hollis says it is not just about performing kapa haka. It is about breaking down the actions and learning about traditions, stories and context — using local stories to guide the subject and get kids excited.

Te Ao Haka is also helping students master body and mind while opening themselves up to other learning, Mr Hollis says.

The subject has been taught out of class in the past but is now being recognised at the same level as English, te reo, maths and science.

“What is awesome now is that Te Ao Haka sits among those, which gives our children access to things that might not have been there if this subject wasn't around.”

It was not that long ago that the Maori language was discouraged at schools, Mr Hollis said.

Thirty-five years ago there were no state Maori-immersion schools where teachers and students spoke in their native tongue, “and we need to remember that today we are beneficiaries of our elders' hard work”, Mr Hollis said.

“They slogged away when it was hard, when it was not cool to be Maori, when they were made to eat soap at high school for speaking te reo.”

Mr Hollis said two of the early Maori language advocates were Joanne Paenga, who passed away recently, and her late husband Anaru “Skip” Paenga. They pushed for Maori performing arts in schools over 20 years ago.

The addition of Maori performing arts marks a significant step towards ensuring parity for Maori knowledge in New Zealand's education system, says Ellen MacGregor-Reid, the Ministry of Education's deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement.

Around 900 students in English-medium and Maori-medium schools will be studying Te Ao Haka this year.

“This is a significant step in our efforts to ensure Maori knowledge, culture and approaches to learning are valued, recognised and supported in accordance with the Government's obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, and to enable all young New Zealanders to choose from a full range of pathways to further study or work,” Ms MacGregor-Reid says.

As part of the NCEA Change Package, the Government is committed to developing new ways to recognise matauranga Maori, build teacher capability and improve resourcing and support for Maori learners.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Manutuke School is one of the first schools in the country to pilot a new NCEA subject, Te Ao Haka, covering Maori performing arts. Students Rangimaitu Patuwai (left), Waiora Lewis, Mereaina Kopa-Emery and Cheidan Moetara are practising movements for the physical section of the subject. SEE STORY PAGE 2 Picture by Paul Rickard
PUTTING IN THE MAHI: Giving it their all are (from left) Levi Hune, Te Uemairangi Lemon, Te Haeora Kerekere-Puke, Taihoronukurangi Lemon, Tu Whakaea Kerekere-Puke, Chevy Nepe and Phoenix Liku. Picture by Paul Rickard
FOLLOW MY LEAD: Manutuke School kaiako/teacher Dayne Hollis instructs students of the now NCEA-recognised subject Te Ao Haka. Picture by Paul Rickard
IN A ROW: Rangimaitu Patuwai, with classmates lined up behind her, goes through a movement as part of the Maori performing arts subject which has been put into the school curriculum this year. Picture by Paul Rickard