Xavier Turner, Youth MP for Barbara Kuriger and the representative for Taranaki- King Country, challenged the Associate Minister of Education on the first official day of Youth Parliament 2019. A seemingly innocuous question during his allocated time, Turner asked the Minister why Maori history was not taught in New Zealand schools. A simple question, but little did Turner know that he would be connecting to a legacy not just of the decolonisation of the NZ curriculum, but also of Youth Parliament itself.

The short answer to this question is that Maori History is already taught in schools – and is in fact required by the curriculum to be offered. However, the matter goes deeper. Although required by the curriculum, Maori History, particularly outside of the context of the Treaty of Waitangi, is offered at Level 6 in the curriculum. Level 6 is one of the first points in High School where students have the opportunity to have more control over their subject choices, opting in or out of classes. If a student chooses to pursue subjects not connected with the Maori History ‘required’ by the curriculum, they may never be exposed to it in their formal education.

Additionally, the Minister himself admitted that all schools are not equal, saying “some schools are doing it well, some schools aren’t doing enough on it.” Following on from Xavier Turner’s question, Pounamu Wharehinga, another Youth MP, offered a supplementary question expanding on education around indigenous peoples in New Zealand. This was met with the same answer, that “some of the schools that aren’t doing it well, if you ask them they would say they were doing it well”. It’s not the first time that the education of Maori History has been brought into Youth Parliament. Youth MP Leah Bell made it her mission during her tenure to make the Maori Land Wars a compulsory part of New Zealand education back in 2016.

As this issue comes up again and again at Youth Parliament, we have to wonder what is really going on. Where is the disconnect between the Debating Chamber and the classroom? The Minister himself admits that Maori History is not being taught in a uniform or comprehensive way that ensures all Kiwis understand the history of our people and our land and suggests that further support and resources must be given to schools, but the question remains relevant three years on from when it was first asked. Our Youth MPs are calling out for something to change, and they are yet to be heard.

the common room

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