19 Oct 2012

Kohanga groups think about changes to pre-schools

3:14 pm on 19 October 2012

The Kohanga movement says it will make its own changes to the way Maori pre-schools are run following a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into Maori pre-schools.

The Tribunal's report says the Crown should to apologise to the country's kohanga reo because, it says, they suffered significant prejudice from successive governments forcing them to comply with the same early-childhood education regulations as English-language services.

Kohanga Reo National Trust board co-chair Tina Olsen-Ratana says taking the claim was not about seeking vindication for kohanga to stay the way they are.

She says after at least 20 years of being under the control of the Ministry of Education, kohanga now need to think about the future.

Ms Olsen-Ratana says Maori pre-schools have to revisit the traditional philosophy, as well as the question of what it truly means to be Maori.

She says the influence of mainstream policies on the operation of Maori pre-schools would no doubt have altered how kohanga run now compared to two decades ago.

Ms Olsen-Ratana says the trust's board cannot say what the changes will be, because each kohanga will have their own ideas about how they'll need to re-develop.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will make its decisions on the recommendations in the Waitangi Tribunal report in due course.

He says the Government has been investing very heavily in the Maori language as well as continuing to support a lot of areas where preservation of Te Reo is very important.

Mr Key says even the courts have recognised the importance and the Government understands the Maori language is important.

Mr Key says the Government will need to review the Waitangi Tribunal report before it publicises its position on what's been raised.

Apology needed

Ms Olsen-Ratana says it is essential the Crown apologise for the harm it has caused the kohanga reo movement.

Kohanga reo depend on fluent speakers of Maori rather than on registered teachers, on which funding is based.

Ms Ratana says an apology will allow kohanga to move on.

The report also recommends the Government help the centres with $20 million in essential building repairs. Property improvements are urgently needed, with about a third of kohanga likely to lose their licences unless they're repaired.

"They're in disrepair now. We need that money now," Ms Ratana says.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the Government acknowledges the important role kohanga reo play in education and the report will be assessed alongside the Government's current work on early-childhood funding and a plan for Maori language in education.