The first New Zealand Education Act was passed in 1877 and provided the basis for a free and universal education available for all children, covering 13 years of primary and secondary schooling. The educational system in New Zealand was essentially a central system. Funds are provided by the central government where teachers are trained in government colleges of education and the curriculum content and standards are determined nationally. The system was developed primarily on the basis of trends in other countries, particularly England.
By 1989, The Education Act (Section 8) legislated “equal rights to primary and secondary education, people who have special educational needs (whether because of disability or otherwise) have the same rights to enroll and receive education in state schools as people who do not. ” (Ministry of Education, New Zealand) As with general education, the development of special education in New Zealand has been influenced by ideas and practices imported from other countries, especially Britain and the United States.
A reasonable range of special education provisions has evolved for students who have social, emotional or behavioral difficulties and speech, hearing, visual or physical disabilities. In the intervening years, New Zealand ’s belief in an egalitarian society has been combined with an increasing international awareness of human rights and disability issues. A significant outcome of such thinking has been the development and implementation of the Special Education 2000 policy.
The special education policy framework, Special Education 2000, was first announced in the 1996 Budget to enhance resourcing for children and young people with special education needs. According to the Ministry of Education of New Zealand, “there is a number of school settings available to students with special education needs: mainstream classrooms, special schools, special education classes within mainstream schools, to just name a few.
Resources provided also include: specialist support, therapy, staffing, equipment and other materials, property modification and transport, as well as advice and specialist support. ” Special education services for learners from ethnically diverse groups are generally designed, delivered and evaluated by people from the majority culture and are usually based on a majority culture concept of special needs. If a learner’s background is not taken into account in the services provided, these services are likely to be less effective.
In New Zealand, the Maori people are the indigenous people. A Maori is a person who identifies with or feels they belong to the Maori ethnic group. They are of Polynesian extraction and represent approximately 15% of New Zealand’s population. The Maori are a diverse group. “They differ in many areas including education level, lifestyle, beliefs, values, socio-ecomomic status, religious and tribal affiliations, geographic location, knowledge and practice of Maori culture and the degree of assimilation into the Pakeha (white New Zealander) society. (Harrison, 2005) The education system has played a crucial role in acculturating Maori children and their families into accepting these ideals as being right and proper for them. Maori education has been molded to fit a mainstream framework rather than a traditional Maori one. The Maori wanted to learn their own language, (te reo Maori ) traditions, their ancient history as well as their interpretations of colonial history. They wanted to maintain those aesthetics that derive from the Maori world that make them unique in the world.
According to Glynn (2005), assimilation into the mainstream educational system created learning disabilities for Maori children. The New Zealand education system has never legally defined categories of disability. The term learning disabilities was not accepted as an area of special education. But there has been a category called “educationally retarded. ” Most students in this category were characterized by their difficulty in reading. Whatever category or term is used to label this disability, assistance for such children is extremely limited.
Some students with learning disabilities have been assisted under provisions for “educationally retarded” students. Others received help from the Reading Recovery Program. “Reading Recovery Program is an early intervention for students making limited progress in reading and writing after their first year at school. ” (McDowall, 2005). “In 2003 Reading Recovery was implemented in 67 percent of all state and state-integrated primary and composite schools in New Zealand. (Anand & Bennie, 2005) The survey and Ministry Of Education National 2003 data showed that the uptake of Reading Recovery varied by school type. According to Tunmer (2004), the schools less likely to offer Reading Recovery were small, rural, or low economic schools, or those with high Maori enrollment. Consequently, many Maori children who have learning difficulties in reading and those who have difficulties in other areas are not assisted. Attempts to overcome the lack of recognition of learning disabilities in New Zealand education included parental involvement.
Parent involvement including the extended family (whanau) is extremely important in the Maori culture because the Maori are very group oriented people. The major challenges facing effective education services for Maori learners with special needs in Maori were the “shortage of culturally appropriate special education services in the Maori language, the dearth of special educational professionals with Maori cultural and language knowledge and the shortage of Maori-relevant assessment measures and resources to implement and evaluate special needs programs. (Bevan-Brown, 2004) These challenges are increasing in severity. Maori people think more in the sense that children need to come to different stages of development through their own time and you don’t measure time …. each child is different. They have a different time of learning scales and what one will learn today, another one might not learn until next year. Parental and extended family (whanau) involvement is a fundamental principle of Maori. Therefore it is not surprising that parental support, involvement and communication presented only minor problems.
However, the issue of financial hardship did create difficulties with Maori amongst the poorest schools in New Zealand. Significant disparities between Maori and Pakeha in a variety of economic sectors such as employment and income, participation in knowledge-based industries, the percentage of Maori students who leave schools with no formal qualifications, rates of home ownership, and household income distribution. “If there is an emerging educational vision among Maori, it is he desire for an education that enhances what it means to be Maori; so simple and yet so profound. ” (Harrison, 2005) Because of this economic disparity, many children with disabilities do not attend school. Some children with disabilities are forced to work at an early age in order to help support their families. Knowing this information about a student’s culture is very important in understanding a student and their family if an Maori child with learning disabilities entered your classroom. As a teacher, you would start by assessing the child from the most basic skills.
Also, keep in mind to use face-to-face communication and to have an interpreter if possible when holding meetings. Parent teacher conferences should always include the extended family (whanau). Although the education system of New Zealand has recognized special education, it is unfortunate that learning disability is still not recognized as a category of special education. The educational system of New Zealand has failed to provide appropriate remedial assistance for the majority of children who have learning difficulties.
As a result, most children especially the Maori with learning difficulties have been subject to neglect in the mainstream environment of regular classes. For students with learning disabilities, whose needs have been barely met, inclusion in the mainstream seems like exclusion from assistance. Hopefully over time, Maori parent and their communities will continue to advocate and students with learning disabilities will be adequately helped in the foreseeable future. REFERENCES Anand, Vijayantimala & Bennie, Ngaire. 2005) Annual Monitoring of Reading Recovery. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www. educationcounts. govt. nz/publications/series/1547/5035 Bevan-Brown, Jill. (2004, December). Maori Perspectives of Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www. educationcounts. govt. nz/publications/special_education Glynn, Ted, et. al. (2005). From Literacy in Maori to Biliteracy in Maori and English: A Community and School Transition Programme. The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8(5).
Harrison, B. , et. al. (2005, March). The Development of an Indigenous Knowledge Program in a New Zealand Maori-Language Immersion School. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 36(1), 57-72. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://vnweb. hwwilsonweb. com. proxy. wexler. hunter. cuny. edu/hww/results/external_link_maincontentframe. jhtml? _DARGS=/hww/results/results_common. jhtml. 16 McDowall, Sue, et. al. (2005). Reading Recovery in New Zealand: Uptake, Implementation, and Outcomes, Especially in Relation to Maori and Pasifika Students.
Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www. tki. org. nz/r/literacy_numeracy/pdf/reading_rec_summary. pdf Ministry of Education, New Zealand. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www. minedu. govt. nz/ Penetito, Wally. (2002). Research And Context For A Theory Of Maori Schooling. McGill Journal Of Education, 37(1). Tunmer, W. E. , Chapman, J. W. & Prochnow, J. E. (2004). Why the Reading Achievement Gap in New Zealand Won’t Go Away: Evidence From the Pirls 2001 International Study of Reading Achievement. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 39, 127-46.