31 Mar 2016

Schools get to choose whether to teach land wars

10:24 am on 31 March 2016

Schools can teach students about the New Zealand Wars, the Ministry of Education says - but it will not force them to include it in their curriculums.

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Hundreds of people gathered at Parliament in December 2015 to present a petition calling for a national day to commemorate the land wars. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ministry officials have appeared before the Māori Affairs Select Committee, which is considering a 12,000 strong petition calling for a day to mark the land wars and for the history of those events to be taught at schools.

Almost 3000 people, most of whom were Māori, died in the conflicts between government forces and Māori.

The petition argues that there is not enough awareness about New Zealand wars and that the events should be part of the school curriculum.

Ministry associate deputy secretary Karl Le Quesne said it supported students learning about the New Zealand wars but it would not attempt to make it compulsory.

"Rather than prescribing in detail, you have to teach this subject - and this subject, we maintain the broad areas of learning across the year levels and then support and encourage with resources.

"We think that is the approach which will eventually lead to greater take-up of teaching around the land wars."

The ministry's te reo Māori group manager, Kiritina Johnstone, said the focus was on helping schools develop their own content, which could include the history of local land wars.

She told MPs that resources, guidelines and funding already existed to support that.

"We are trying to... provide opportunities for them to work collaboratively with their iwi and their whanau to develop the things that matter to them."

Ms Johnstone said there were schools in the South Island and Rotorua already working with iwi to develop localised resources about Māori history.

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta said having a national day of commemoration for the land wars, like Anzac Day, would encourage schools to develop their own content about the New Zealand wars.

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