A blueprint to address racism and inequity in education

Published on Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Last updated on Monday, 29 March 2021

Article hero image

A large percentage of children do very well in their early childhood education and go on to achieve great things at school, however this is not the case for all.

There’s a wide gap between our highest and lowest-performing pupils, with Unicef ranking our education system as one of the most unequal in the developed world; and there’s longstanding concern that our system is failing Māori learners.

Unconscious bias, overt racism and inequity continues to affect the wellbeing and achievements of ākonga Māori, and in recognition of this, the Ministry of Education is implementing a Māori-led, community-focused blueprint for systemic change.

Here’s how early learning services, schools and others are working together to address racism and inequity in education.

What is the Te Hurihanganui blueprint?

Te Hurihanganui: A Blueprint for Transformative System Shift is the result of a co-design process between the Ministry of Education and a group of Mātanga (recognised experts in the education of ākonga Māori).

This blueprint promotes two poa (Kaupapa Māori and critical consciousness), supported by six design principles to mobilise communities to:

  • Address bias
  • Strengthen equity, and
  • Accelerate the educational achievement and wellbeing of Māori learners.

The blueprint has been described as, ‘Led by Māori, for Māori, for all,’ and it’s being implemented in six communities across New Zealand, with a focus on working together and sharing responsibility for systemic change.

Chair of the Mātanga, Professor Mere Berryman says Te Hurihanganui, ‘Acknowledges that addressing racism and inequity is everybody’s responsibility, and that ākonga, whānau, hapū, iwi and home communities have as much of a role to play as early learning centres, schools and government policy makers.’

The Ministry of Education is working alongside Te Hurihanganui community groups until 2023, and what works in the six communities will then be built back into the wider education system so that we can see a transformative shift for all ākonga Māori and their whānau in the system.

How will the blueprint address racism, build equity and accelerate outcomes for ākonga Māori?

Te Hurihanganui is based on evidence of what works for Māori in education, and its six design principles have been identified as critical for transformative education system reform.

The principles identified by the Mātanga are:

  • Te Ao Māori – including and validating Māori knowledge and ways of being
  • Te Tino Rangatiratanga – growing Māori leadership
  • Te Whanaungatanga – building positive relationships through connections, mutual trust and respect
  • Te Ira Tangata – believing in the unlimited potential of every person
  • Te Mana Ōrite – achieving equity throughout the system where power and decision-making are reciprocal and mutually respectful, and
  • Te Hāngaitanga – taking collective responsibility for ensuring Māori can enjoy and achieve educational success as Māori.

The Ministry of Education describes these principles as interdependent, and says that, ‘Together, [they] offer greater potential for developing an equitable and excellent education system where Māori succeed as Māori.’

To implement Te Hurihanganui, early learning services, schools and community groups will apply the above design principles across all parts of their education system, creating a programme of action around:

  • Whānau, iwi and community
  • Leadership and governance
  • Teaching and learning, and
  • Curriculum and assessment

Communities will receive support, resources and tools to:

  • Strengthen kaupapa Māori knowledge to support a cultural shift in the education system, and
  • Build critical consciousness to support a structural shift in the education system.

In practice, the government says strengthening kaupapa Māori means:

  • Recognising the validity and legitimacy of Māori language, culture, philosophy and principles
  • Thinking critically and developing a critique of non-Māori constructions and definitions of Māori, and
  • Affirming the importance of Māori self-definitions and self-valuations.

While building critical consciousness means:

  • Reflecting critically on the imbalance of power and resources in society, and taking anti-oppressive action to do something about it for the better
  • Recognising white privilege, understanding racism, inequity faced by Māori and disrupting that status quo to strengthen equity.

There’s something in this for all of us, and regardless of which community we’re in, it’s important to address racism and inequity where we find it, and think carefully about how we (and our children) see the world.

Racism does our society no favours and a fair education system brings benefits for all, so we’re heartened to see the Te Hurihanganui blueprint being implemented and look forward to an increase in equality and outcomes for all Māori learners.


Ministry of Education


Related Articles

Article image

Celebrating Diverse Families

Families have changed shape and celebrating the diversity of structures boosts inclusivesness.

Article image

Embracing the rich resource of cultural and linguistic diversity

Cultural and linguistic diversity is a rich and positive resource which educators can tap into to better support inclusive learning environments as well as the children within them.

Article image

Supporting neurodiversity in early education settings

The unique needs of neurodiverse children and the important role of early educators in supporting their learning and development.