Me Ako Ki Nga Tikanga Maori I Roto I Te Reo Kori: Culture and Learning through Te Reo Kori

Article excerpt

According to Walker (1995; p.19), one of the most significant features of the 1987 physical education syllabus was the successful identification of a Maori dimension of movement, Te Reo Kori. The incorporation of both Tikanga Maori and Taha Maori through movement provided a unique flavour to our work in schools, which was widely acclaimed both nationally and internationally. However, despite the delight of many (see for example Stothart, 1992; p.5) at the opportunity to redress previous neglect of Maori dimensions of movement as Te Reo Kori claimed its rightful place in the sun, it now appears that the sunshine was to be short-lived. Te Reo Kori has been clearly trivialised in the current Draft Health and Physical Education Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1997). In this article I express some concerns about that loss and explore the important potential roles of Te Reo Kori in the enhancement of students' personal identity and self-worth, and in the transmission and transformation of culture.

Hutia te rito o te harakeke,

kei whea te komako e ko?

ka rere ki uta, ka rere ki tai

Ui mai koe ki a au,

he aha te mea nui i te ao?

Maku e lci atu,

he tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

If you pluck out the centre shoot of the

flax, where will the bellbird sing?

It will fly inland, it will fly towards the


If you ask me,

What is the most important thing in the


I will reply,

People, people, people!

This well-known whakatauki (proverb) is a powerful metaphor for the way in which the current Draft Health and Physical Education Curriculum positions the child at the centre of the formal education process. Metge (I990a; p.55) explains that the rito, the centre shoot of the flax root, is a child, issuing from and nurtured and protected by its parents and, beyond them, its grandparents and extended family. The centre blades of the flax closest to the rito should not be cut, or the root will no longer put out new ones. Although the images conveyed in this whakatauki are traditionally applied to the whanau, it is appropriate also for conceptualising health and physical education in our programmes of the future. I see the child as the rito, nurtured and supported by the four cornerstones of hauora (Durie, 1994; p.70), as conceptualised in the Draft Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1997; p.9):

Taha tina physical well-being the capacity for physical growth, development and skilled movement;

Taha whanau: social well-being family support, social interactions, the capacity to belong, compassion and caring;

Taha hinengaro: mental and emotional well-being

the capacity to communicate thoughts and feelings and to think critically and coherently;

Taha wairua: spiritual well-being personal belief structures, personal identity, the values that determine the way we live, and the search for personal meaning.

Physical education is socially and historically constructed, and is located within and legitimated by practices which constitute society. Those practices which reflect and are embedded in physical culture, in the fitness movement, in sport and in a new health consciousness, are clearly prominent in New Zealand schools. The fact that Te Reo Kori is marginalised is a reflection of what forms of knowledge and culture are considered of value, and by whom, and who controls the processes of curriculum development in New Zealand. The whakatauki above offers a cautionary note, regarding the threat to the hauora (state of complete physical, mental social and spiritual well-being) of all children, posed by the trivialising of Te Reo Kori in the school curriculum. Not only is the non-Maori student denied access to knowledge of some aspects of Maori culture (New Zealand Curriculum Framework 1993; p.7), but for the Maori student this trivialisation also points to an opportunity lost to affirm personal identity and self-worth in the context of physical education. …