NZ School oversight of Maori in the house system.

NZ School oversight of Maori in the house system.

Little or no consideration has been applied to the house system in New Zealand Schools and the impacts that they have on Māori children. Many Māori children may be placed in a house that competes against another house that may have their ancestral name or other significant tribal sensitive name.

The house system at school is hierarchical and competition is encouraged between the houses as are leadership roles, respect for your house and values that are associated with the house. Cambridge High School who uses non Māori house names sums up school houses in a generic manner.“The House system aims to give students an identity and sense of pride in a supportive, secure environment. The Houses provide for positive competition and a closer rapport between students and teachers.”

Two real life examples of school house system and the oversight of Māori a primary and a high school follow:
Both schools are situated in the district of Ngāi Tahu. One school has a house called Aoraki (Ngāi Tahu’s sacred mountain) and the other Rāpaki (Ngāi Tahu place name and residence of the hāpū Ngāti Wheke). Ngāi Tahu students are are randomly placed in houses with no cultural considerations. It is common for Ngāi Tahu students to be placed in houses that must compete with their tribal named houses. The physiological impact of this must be enormous. Why would a Māori student want to achieve leadership status in a house that did not reflect their tribal identity?

There are also no Ministry of Education or Education Review Office guidelines about cultural safety for pupils with house allocation. Houses often have colors associated with them that could cause offence to other cultures other than New Zealand and Māori.

Perhaps the issue originates with the naming of the houses. Schools should consult their local Iwi about names and then ensure that students who identify as Māori with tribal affiliations are allocated the appropriate house.

Ideally, The Ministry of Education, The Education Review Office and the New Zealand School Trustees Association should consider these issues and offer resources to assist schools.

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