Te Kotahitanga – a successful programme is cut

For more than ten years a programme has been developed, implemented and monitored that has a proven ability to help teachers work effectively with all students.

Te Kotahitanga was developed by Russel Bishop, Mere Berryman and a team at Waikato University to help teachers become culturally responsive and inclusive. More than 40 schools have used the programme and for those who have sustained it the results have been remarkable. A crude measure is the NCEA results and for some schools student achievement for Level Two NCEA has jumped from around 30 percent to 70 percent success.

The programme is based on an intense and positive process which helps teachers reflect on their practice and listens to student feedback to build constructive classroom relationships. The key has been a schools based facilitator to help sustain the programme in the schools. Some teachers have discovered that their monocultural bias has been invisible to them and that even with the best will in the world they have been marginalising some students.

Te Kotahitanga has been transformative for all parties, so the Government has cut it and is introducing a new programme called “Building on Success” which does include some of the core ideas of Te Kotahitanga but misses out the costly but essential element of a facilitator based in the school. It will be cheaper but less effective, which is false economy given the Government’s supposed commitment to Maori and Pasifika students who benefit the most from the programme.

I have visited the initiators of Te Kotahitanga and read their research. The Greens support this critical intervention. We think investing in kura kaupapa Maori and Te Kotahitanga are two vital ways to really build on success, not Charter Schools or cuts to the key elements of a programme that works.

2 Comments Posted

  1. Hi Catherine, I think you will need to dig a bit deeper on this issue. The jump in achievement you talk about has been replicated in hundreds of schools WITHOUT the very expensive TK programme which costs about $1000 to implement per student, remembering the research project only included yrs 9 & 10. The core interventions you talk about in TK were ofcourse combined pedagogies taken from a whole range of previous teaching strategies – TK did not independantly create them. So when you talk about TK strategies they are not really. The big failure I feel of the TK project was threefold – 1) Above all to manaaki the teachers involved, it failed miserably in some schools which was a shame because, and I quote (Wehipeihana, 2011), In Kaupapa Māori programmes – as in Māori communities – “relationships ‘are’ the business’, and getting the relational ‘stuff’ right sets a platform for on-going engagement and contributes to successful outcomes.” Some schools that made this programme compulsory kept a very tight lid on the abysmal way in which they harassed, bullied and in some cases blacklisted their staff, you will need to read the independent research of Prof Roger Openshaw to appreciate the scale and magnitute of that behaviour. So it makes you wonder whether there was another agenda behind the smokescreen of adopting the TK project in some of those schools. Secondly the TK project refused to acknowledge any other educative initiatives that were occuring in the school they were in (?) So anything of recognition that may have occurred in those schools, ANYTHING at any year level, was attributed to TK. That is just stupidity. I won’t explain any further because I’m sure you can comprehend the magnitude of that being left out of their research findings. Lastly I think you need to appreciate that the TK ‘guru’ Russell Bishop, surrounded himself with, what I can only call a big clan of cult followers, who head nodded their way into $100k plus jobs, without creating any checks and balances to the programme. They didn’t listen to advice from outside their cliche and have suffered as a consequence. Infact they attacked anyone who questioned the relevance of their inhouse research. The programme as I see it is way past the used by date. Their accredited NCEA results are no better or worse than other schools who didn’t have a chunk of the wasteful $40 million pie. Please see http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/northland/bay-chronicle/8618874/Te-Kotahitanga-no-more.

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