Every child in New Zealand deserves to thrive physically, academically, socially, and culturally. However, too many Māori children leave school without the education they deserve. It is the wrong outcome that leads to worse social and economic outcomes and affects every New Zealander.
It is well known that there is a gap between Māori and non-Māori achievement. This is closing. However, progress is still too slow.
The education sector has an integral role to play in reducing the gap – or education "debt" as my Māori Advisory and Reference Group calls it. My Office has completed five reports, including this one, in the hope that we can make some contribution to reducing the gap or, at the very least, shine a light on this vital issue for New Zealand.
Having analysed the differences in achievement between similar schools, I see a great opportunity for poorer-performing schools to learn from similar but better-performing schools. This might take some breaking down of old attitudes and barriers to collaboration but, in my view, there is huge potential for Māori to enjoy more educational success as Māori. This is not a "pie in the sky" notion. Significant improvement in Māori education is a realistic objective.
There are many good practices and good results in our schools and educational agencies. I would like to see people throughout the education system encourage collaboration and co-operation, and spread good practices to lift the performance of those schools that are lagging behind.
The Ministry of Education's data shows that, in 2015, $5.0 billion was spent on property, operational, and teaching costs in primary and secondary schools. This equates to $7,046 for each student or about $1.2 billion for all Māori students.
Right now, there are too many Māori education initiatives that are not connected or evaluated for cost-effectiveness. A more coherent set of initiatives would probably result in better outcomes. This would be an immense help to everyone in the school system. I know it is difficult to stop programmes, but I hope someone has the courage to try.
The central concept of the Māori education strategy, Ka Hikitia, is "Māori succeeding as Māori". Getting to grips with the concept does not need to result in hair-splitting about its meaning. In my view, the absence of a clear definition is not a barrier to getting on with it. Many schools are getting on with applying the intent of the strategy in terms of what makes sense to their whānau and their Māori community. Circulating examples of how schools successfully translate the strategy into action would really help those who are struggling with this aspect and would help to get more value out of a well-researched and widely supported strategy.
The system does frequently get it right. The data tells that story. The great results achieved by some schools, despite challenging circumstances, shows it is possible to govern, manage, and teach in these schools as effectively as in many (but not all) better-off schools.
As expected since I began my five-year audit programme on Māori education, there have been new developments that are intended to improve the system. The Education Act is being updated, and investment is being made to help schools share good practices, use achievement data, and engage with whānau and communities. I hope people apply the lessons from my reports in conjunction with these new developments, to effect change and make improvements.
There are many groups within the education system (for example, associations for principals and teachers) that are beyond my mandate. Everyone has a role in working together in the interests of the student, and there are growing signs of more collaboration occurring.
During the past five years, many people have contributed time and effort to my five reports. I thank the Māori Advisory and Reference Group for their review of the reports and for their ongoing support and guidance. I thank the many whānau, students, school boards, principals, teachers, and members of teacher or principal associations who met with my staff or responded to surveys. I acknowledge the help of staff from various other education agencies and, in particular, staff from the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office, and thank them for their insights. And last but not least, I thank all my staff who have done sterling work in the gathering of evidence, and writing these five reports.
I trust that our collective efforts will make a difference to the education of our tamariki.
Controller and Auditor-General
4 October 2016