Te Kōpae Piripono – Centre of Innovation

This paper provides background information about Te Kōpae Piripono and its Centres of Innovation  (COI) journey.

Tātai Whakapapa

Ko Rangi, ko Papa

ka puta ko Rongo, ko Tānemahuta

tū ki te rangi e tū iho nei.

Whai muri iho ko Tangaroa,

ko Tūmatauenga, Haumiatiketike

Tāwhirimātea i rere ki te rangi, e hai

Tokona rā ko te rangi ki runga

ko Papa ki raro ka wehewehea

ka puta te whai ao

te ao māramarama.

Ka takatū ko te ira tangata

i ngā arearetanga o Papa

horapa kau ana ki te matawhenua

ki te tuawhenua,

ki ngā motumotuhanga, e hai.

Koia rā tēnei e Rongo

whakairia ake ki runga

Hohou ko te rongo, ki runga, ki raro

Ki te hunga tāngata,

ki ngā tamariki mokopuna

Hui e! Hui e! Tāiki eee!

(Nā Te Huirangi Waikerepuru tënei karakia i tito)

This karakia, Te Tātai Whakapapa, embodies the kaupapa (philosophy) of Te Kōpae Piripono Māori immersion early childhood centre. Te Tātai Whakapapa is essentially an affirmation of the Kaupapa Māori paradigm that underpins and guides everything that we do at Te Kōpae Piripono.

Te Kōpae Piripono is Taranaki's only Māori immersion early childhood centre. It was set up in October 1994, by a diverse group of parents, educators and other prominent individuals in the community, all committed to the retention and enrichment of te reo Māori me ōna tīkanga, in Taranaki. Te Kōpae Piripono's innovative practice is embodied in its name. The word Kōpae is the Taranaki word for nest (in which learning and language are fostered). Piripono means an everlasting and genuine embrace. These concepts permeate our mission statement:

Te Kōpae Piripono has an absolute commitment to the child and family. We are committed to the retention and enrichment of te reo me ngā Tïkanga Māori in Taranaki, provided through a total immersion learning environment - the most effective and efficient means of language acquisition. We strive for excellence in education, for Māori by Maori. We believe in a holistic approach to education, whereby children learn through play, developing creativity and imagination. The child is valued as an individual and as a whānau member.

Te Kōpae Piripono is set in old hospital grounds, overlooking New Plymouth and a stunning expanse of ocean. Our tūpuna mountain, Rua Taranaki stands behind us, in all his resplendent glory. Te Kōpae Piripono has a "full day" licence. Children attend for the whole day, between 8.45 am-3.15 pm. Our centre operation coincides with the primary school calendar, meaning we have a four-term year, and corresponding holidays. We are licensed for 20 children over-two and 10 children under-two, but we choose to maintain our regular roll at around 25 children. Maintaining high adult:child ratios means we are able to provide meaningful and authentic teaching and learning opportunities and also to appropriately support children's Māori language learning.

Being Māori
We rejoice in being Māori and believe that all the elements that proudly distinguish us as Māori and make Māori special and unique, should again find expression in every facet of our lives. For us Kaupapa Māori means 100% te reo Māori, as the medium of teaching and learning. Te reo Māori is the mechanism by which we interpret and understand the world. Te reo Māori is the outward expression of our taha Māori, our mana Māori and our values and beliefs. We strongly connect with the indigenous concepts of Te Ao Māori, (the ancient phenomenological world of Ranginui and Papatuānuku). Indigenous Māori concepts, karakia and spirituality, are the essence of all our operations and practices.

The importance of whānau
An important aspect of Te Kōpae Piripono's philosophy is the support and development of the whole whānau and not just the child enrolled. Whānau support, especially for te reo Māori, is crucial in their child's social and cognitive development. If whānau are speaking Māori at home or even making attempts, then the message to their child is that te reo Māori has an important place in their lives. For us, whanaungatanga means a partnership in education. We believe whānau are an integral part of teaching and learning. It is incumbent on us to help Māori children and their families come to realise the important role they play in the positive development of their community. In particular, whānau need to understand that they become involved in Kaupapa Māori early childhood education, not just to "receive" an education but to participate fully and to actively contribute to the growth of the community. It is essential that the whole whānau is involved, including fathers. Kaupapa Māori early childhood education is not just about children's preparation for school. It is about whānau, hapu and iwi development - the ecological context of children's learning.

Our approach to learning
"Ko koe ki tēnā kīwai, ko au ki tēnei kīwai o te kete".

(You carry your handle and I'll carry my handle of our kete).

This well-known Waikato whakatauki (saying) embodies the essence of our aspirations for children and whānau at Te Kōpae Piripono. The concept of the "handles" of a kete (flax basket), denotes the idea of both individual and collective responsibility for, in our case, children's learning and development. In order for two people to take hold of each kīwai (handle), there needs to be communication, cooperation, consideration of the other person and commitment to the task. Then there is the kete itself and the significance of what it holds or promises to hold. For us, it is about learning, dialogue, interaction, ideas, perspective, aroha, wairua, manaki and whānau. Carrying the kete denotes a sense of journey. For us, it is a journey of learning, or whānau and of relationships.

We embrace the concept of 'ako' (Metge, 1984), where children and adults are simultaneously on a journey of learning and discovery. Ako posits the teacher and the learner as equally powerful participants in the learning process. Embracing the concept of ako means viewing children as having mana (status) and also the ability to make their own decisions and to drive their own learning. It also acknowledges adults' own learning journey.

We believe in the importance of inter-connectedness in teaching and learning. According to traditional Māori educational ideology, no learning or thought can exist in isolation. All thought and learning is connected-over time, experiences, thought, relationships and cultural contexts, and environments. We seek to maintain and foster connections, across paradigms. It is kaupapa Māori that ensures stability and consistency for the children.

Our COI journey
Te Kōpae Piripono was named as a Centre of Innovation (COI) in December 2004. Our whānau saw the COI research as an opportunity to explore in depth what we do, how we do it and why. Our research question concerns the role of whānau development and leadership. A further research question exploring early childhood curriculum from an Ao Māori perspective, will be considered by our whānau at the conclusion of our COI research.

Research question
"Whakatupungia te pā harakeke, kia tupu whakaritorito".

(Nurture the essence of whānau, so that it may flourish).

How does whānau development at Te Kōpae Piripono foster leadership, across all levels, to enhance children's learning and development?

Research approach and methodology
The Te Kōpae Piripono COI research is 'Kaupapa Māori' research, validating and legitimising Māori language, knowledge and culture (Smith, 1997). It is appropriate that Kaupapa Māori is the theoretical framework of both Te Kōpae Piripono and the COI research. Participatory action research is highly compatible with Kaupapa Māori. At Te Kōpae Piripono, the whānau approach taken to our research means it has been a collaborative, consensual process, shared by whānau members intent on improving the organisation, empowering and advancing the individual and the collective, for the benefit of the community. The research design reflects that approach by combining various research methods in a multi-faceted, multi-levelled strategy to explore whānau development and the promotion of leadership at Te Kōpae Piripono.

Our historical context
Part of our research journey has meant us understanding our historical context. From the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi to the massive land confiscations and unjust laws, iwi Māori have existed in a historical background of injustice. These negative circumstances have continued for so long, they have become ingrained in our psyche, so much so that we exist in a vacuum of grievance, of negativity and of survival. Our research into leadership (through whānau development) centres on our efforts to secure psychological, organisational and educational redress for the whānau of Te Kōpae Piripono, and for the Māori community. At Te Kōpae Piripono, we aim to create a brighter future for our tamariki and our mokopuna by changing paradigms; finding new ways of doing and being.

The role of whānau development
Te Kōpae Piripono has a Kaupapa Māori philosophy of strengthening and working with whānau to support their child's learning, especially their taha wairua, taha hinengaro, taha tīnana and taha whānau. This means building a world for children, both at home and at Te Kōpae Piripono, where te reo Māori and Tīkanga Māori are special and have status and value. We strive to share challenges, build relationships, and overcome adversity together.

'Whānau' is a totally inclusive term; it does not distinguish between management, kaitiaki (teachers), mātua (parents/caregivers), families or tamariki (children). Whānau development, therefore, means the learning and development of every member of our community of learners. Every person is an important member of our whānau, each having a valuable contribution to make. Whānau development is not just an ideal; it is also an intentional, planned programme of professional, personal, and collective development.

Research strategies
Our research has necessarily been focused on two main research strategies: Whakauru Whānau (the process of enrolment and induction into Te Kōpae Piripono) and Whakawhanake Whānau (the review of the Te Kōpae Piripono's whānau development programme).

Leadership at Te Kōpae Piripono
Leadership is a key component of our research question. For us, leadership is about four key responsibilities: Te Whai Takohanga - Having Responsibility, Te Mouri Takohanga - Being Responsible, Te Kawe Takohanga - Taking Responsibility and Te Tuku Takohanga - Sharing Responsibility.


Te Whai Takohanga - Having Responsibility
Having Responsibility relates to having designated roles and positions of responsibility.

Te Mouri Takohanga - Being Responsible
Being Responsible refers to an individual's attitude and actions. Being responsible is about being professional, acting ethically and appropriately, being honest, being positive and open to others and different perspectives.

Te Kawe Takohanga - Taking Responsibility
Taking Responsibility is about courage, risk-taking, having a go, taking up the challenge and trying new things.

Te Tuku Takohanga - Sharing Responsibility
Sharing Responsibility is about sharing power, roles and positions. But more than this it is about relationships. Sharing responsibility denotes an interaction and engagement with others, being able to listen to others' points of view, acknowledging different perspectives and also asking for and providing assistance.

Our view of leadership seeks to move away from traditional Western perspectives of leadership in Early Childhood Education (ECE), which tends to focus predominantly on the roles of formal leaders in ECE centres, that is, centre directors, supervisors and teachers. Our view of leadership considers everyone involved in Te Kōpae Piripono, whatever their role (whether that be management, teacher, child, parent, or other whānau member), as a leader. Individual leadership is about supporting and, at times, challenging each other to acknowledge and take up our individual and collective responsibility of supporting our children's and our own learning and development.

Emerging themes
A number of themes have emerged in our research.

Shared understandings
We can only have whānau development when we have shared understandings, not just understandings of what Te Kōpae Piripono is and does, but a collective understanding, on a much deeper level, of our kaupapa and of our shared responsibilities and commitment, in the education of our children. We know that we are walking a well-trodden pathway. As one of our karakia says, "E tau nei ki runga i a tātou, te wairua o ngā mātua tūpuna. Nā rātou i whakatakoto te ara, hei hīkoinga ma tātou ngā uri." (Let us be guided by the spirits of our ancestors, they who laid the foundations of the pathway on which we the descendants are treading). This karakia illustrates the commitment required from all of us as contributors to this kaupapa.

Acknowledging fear and uncomfortability
As well as making boundaries and expectations clear, it is also imperative to acknowledge the fear, challenge, or uncomfortable feelings that come with change and learning new ways of doing and being. We acknowledge that whānau come with their lived experience of "education". For many this is a negative 'default' view of education, where they experienced the powerlessness in their relationships with "teachers" and educational institutions. Both kaitiaki and parents have voiced the fear of 'getting it wrong' or not being able to 'get it right'. Learning can only occur if we are open to change. Change can be scary and uncomfortable but it is only through having the courage to be open to change - taking responsibility - that we grow and learn.

Kaitiaki action is the "glue" in ensuring whānau development
Kaitiaki action is the glue in the process of fostering whānau development. We are mindful that whānau members come to Te Kōpae Piripono for their children's education, and whether we like it or not we may initially be perceived as "the institution"! As one whānau member put it, "It's that feeling of, 'You're a teacher and I'm talking to you,' that's the thing that gets me." Hence, Kaitiaki are central to, ensuring that families who join Te Kōpae Piripono feel fully part of our whānau and are encouraged to see how critical their role is in the lives and learning of their children. Development is about movement and change. Whānau development can also mean that, at times, we must question and challenge our thinking, our understandings, our commitment and our responsibilities. In the context of dialogue with individual whānau, we can notice and recognise whānau strengths and contributions, while at the same time, offer what Dr Anne Meade (1997) describes as warm demands, of whānau.

Actions speak louder than words: positive action
Doing something about your own and/or others' learning shows how much you care. This is what makes the difference. We realise that it's easy to say the words but it takes commitment and action to make it happen. It must be more than words. There also has to be action - positive action. It's about having a go. It's about taking responsibility.

Now in the third and final year of the COI research, the Te Kōpae Piripono experience has been dynamic and rewarding. Despite the benefits that are being derived from the research, we of Te Kōpae Piripono continually have to negotiate the cultural and whānau commitments of our unique setting, including coping with an ongoing shortage of relievers who are both registered and qualified within both written and spoken te reo Māori. The research team is currently engaged in final data analysis and report writing, and is intent on disseminating the findings of the research to the early childhood and Māori communities.

Karakia Whakamutunga

Nā Huirangi Waikerepuru

E tau nei ki runga i a tātou katoa

te wairua o ngā mātua tupuna

nā rātou i whakatakoto te ara

hei hīkoinga mā tātou ngā uri

I whakatōkia ō tātou ngākau

ki ngā tikanga

hei aratakinga i a tātou

Kia ngākau nui ki te hāpai

i a tātou mahi katoa

i roto i te pono i te tika

i te māramatanga

me te aroha anō o tētehi ki tētehi

E Rongo whakairia ake ki runga

kia tīna, tīna,

Hui e, Tāiki e.

Meade, A. (1997). Good practice to best practice: Extending policies and children's minds. Early Childhood Folio, No. 3. Wellington: NZCER.

Smith, G. H. (1997). The development of kaupapa Māori theory and praxis. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of Auckland: IRI.

Contact details
Te Kōpae Piripono
Old Barrett Street Hospital Complex
34 Barrett Street
New Plymouth
New Zealand
Telephone/fax: 06 758 3751
Email: tekopaepiripono@xtra.co.nz

Last updated: 23 July 2009