He aha te mea nui o te ao?
Maku e ki atu, te hapori, te whanau, te tamaiti.

What is the greatest thing?
I will say it is the community, it is the whanau, it is the child.

This whakatauki is not meant to identify three separate areas of importance but instead highlights the intrinsic link that connects and flows between each so that they are not seen as separate but as being a whole.

The purpose of our Rumaki programme is to provide opportunities for our tamariki to strengthen their connections to Te Ao Maori through the medium of Te Reo Maori and by following the protocols of Tikanga Maori. We believe that by highlighting and strengthening these connections we create a learning environment that embodies the above whakatauki.

We believe and are supported in theory by the work of Professor Bishop and Mere Berryman that a Kaupapa Maori based learning environment has the ability to lift academic achievement. Classroom relationships, wider school and whanau relationships and connections to cultural identity and language are an essential foundation for engagement in learning and academic achievement.

The tamaiti, by being made explicitly aware of their connections to a wider sense of whanau, community, tribe, culture, and Te Ao Maori will develop a stronger sense of self, self worth, self pride and in turn recognise those same qualities in others.

We believe that the benefits of this are not only seen in our Rumaki whanau but that the tamariki also take these connections out into the home class, the play ground and into their wider school relationships.

The difference between our Rumaki programme and a tamaiti’s home class is not solely the use of Te Reo Maori as the major language medium. It is the combination of Te Reo, Tikanga Maori and Te Ao Maori that provides opportunities that do not always arise in their home class.

Some points of difference include:

The tamariki are not working within a classroom, they work within a whanau. All the language that is used to describe relationships and expectations reinforce this.

Tamariki are given the opportunity to work in social groupings that are different to their usual home class. They work using a Tuakana / Teina model, where children from a wide age band work together to complete tasks. Older tuakana work alongside younger teina providing them with support and help with modeling tasks and language.

Tamariki practice social interactions  within a cultural context. Mihi and formal greetings are an integral part of the programme. Protocols around personal space and personal tapu shape their interactions.

Appropriate and respectful behaviour isn’t based on school or class rules rather it is based on expectations that are given from our tupuna and shaped by Tikanga Maori.

Te Reo Maori is taught through the curriculum areas unlike in the home class where the curriculum areas are taught. Barriers that may exist in the child’s home class are not necessarily carried into our Rumaki programme. Negative attitudes such as ‘I hate Maths‘ or  ‘I’m not good at writing’ are not always evident  as the purpose isn’t to teach Maths but to teach Te Reo Maori using Mathematic experiences and contexts. Mathematic understandings and knowledge are integral to the experience but the focus remains on the language.

Children who may not experience a lot of ‘show off’ moments in their home class can now be seen as ‘class experts’ in areas of Te Reo and Tikanga Maori. For example teachers can call on a student to help translate a word or remind the class of a protocol that is appropriate in their home class.

The nature of learning a language requires multiple exposure to and multiple experiences in using the new language. There is a continual learn, repeat, review cycle that exposes tamariki repeatedly to new language. Tamariki who may not have a word consolidated through the oral language tasks, may get the consolidation they need in the written tasks, or through movement or song. They have more opportunities and exposure than is often possible in their home class and often incorporates a wider range of multiple intelligences and learning styles.

The Rumaki programme is an option and also spoken amongst staff, tamariki and wider school community as a privilege. The aim is to foster the sense among the tamariki that they are part of something special, strengthening their sense of self and identity.

The Rumaki programme also focuses on strengthening links between whanau and school. We meet to share goals, shape future learning and programmes and celebrate successes within the whanau.

The overarching intent of the Maori Education Strategy document Ka Hikitia was “Maori students enjoying success as Maori”. It states that the “prerequisite for young people’s ongoing engagement in education is strong learning foundations in early schooling”.

We believe that our Rumaki programme at Hikurangi School is putting action to the words and intent of this document. As a school we are looking to further extend the principles and practices of the Rumaki programme into our wider school. We see it as having value not only as a stand alone programme but as one that can feed into and strengthen the wider culture of the school. As a staff we are committed to raising Maori student achievement and have taken on Professional Development contracts that will assist us in our goals. We see the process of ‘ako,’ the ‘reciprocity and interwoven nature of learning and teaching’ within out staff and our tamariki as an exciting and powerful way to engage learners, to raise achievement academically and improve positive social relationships.