Mana Tamariki Te Kōhanga Reo me Te Kura Kaupapa Maori

Our journey in the kaupapa Māori learning and assessment exemplar development project

Mana Tamariki was established in late 1989 to help satisfy the growing demand within our community for kōhanga reo. In 1990 we became the sixth kōhanga reo in Palmerston North. Although Palmerston North is an educational centre, it is not unfortunately a Māori cultural hub and there are very few native Māori speakers living in the area. Ironically, it is the scarcity of Māori culture and language in the district that has provided the environment that has allowed Mana Tamariki to develop and flourish.

Mana Tamariki embraces the goals of the National Kōhanga Reo Trust, which give primacy to Māori language and culture. Our declared objectives illuminate our core values. We aim to uphold the concept of “Mana Tamariki”, which is defined as “children’s status”, “empowerment of children”, and “young people’s authority”. Mana Tamariki places the children as the central focus of all activities in each learning environment.

  • “Children’s status” means that children will be imbued with knowledge and skills appropriate to their level of development.
  • “Empowerment of children” means that children will develop to their full potential.
  • “Young people’s authority” means that Mana Tamariki will actively involve young people in the implementation of these objectives and encourage their participation in decision-making.

We have a holistic view of human development, recognising that cultural, physical, and emotional well-being are as essential as intellectual and creative development.

We promote and uphold an indigenous Māori spiritual dimension.

We recognise the right of Māori with special needs to their ancestral language and culture, and we commit to provide for them.

We aim to develop the students’ confidence, creativity, self-esteem, pride in being Māori, and a love of learning.

We aspire to standards of excellence for each learning environment and each individual student.

In recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, tino rangatiratanga/Māori self-determination is a core element of our organisation.

We aspire to engage with Māori families to focus on the learning, growth, and development of their children.

Child and whānau-centred learning in our environment provides a framework that upholds tino rangatiratanga.

In 1995, we opened our kura kaupapa Māori, a total immersion Māori language school. Our kura kaupapa Māori now also includes a wharekura, a secondary school section.

Our journey in the Kaupapa Māori Learning and Assessment Exemplar Project began in 2003 when Te Kōhanga Reo o Mana Tamariki agreed to participate. We had already begun a developmental journey exploring assessment through the learning stories approach. It would be fair to say that we had a rocky start and the project really set us in motion. The major impact was that involvement in the project provided Mana Tamariki with a forum where we could discuss our efforts with everyone else in the project. Drawing upon the views of others at hui allowed us to consider the theories that were constantly emerging.

Our first narratives strictly followed the learning stories approach. There were no photos. The stories were recorded on one A4-size page of documentation. They were linked to the learning dispositions as described in the learning stories approach. The learning dispositions were, in turn, linked to Te Whāriki. Despite this, our stories seemed dry and uninspiring, and often focused on the children’s developmental stages rather than on the learning that was taking place. This was a stage in the development of our understanding. We continued to share our learning with whānau at monthly meetings. Parents listened and contributed but they too were trying to understand the processes that the staff were following. At this point we did not feel competent and this impacted on our confidence in articulating our understanding of the process.

Not long after we joined the project we purchased a digital camera. The project gave us some assistance to do this and also provided us with our first USB key. The addition of a digital camera launched the staff into a new aspect of professional development – technological advancement. Not only did we add digital documentation to our stories but we also learned about downloading photographs. We trialled different digital filing systems. We printed directly to a photocopier and we maximised our use of the USB key.

As we were getting our heads around the technology, we were also becoming mre familiar with the learning stories approach and with formative assessment. We were concurrently trying to align our analysis of the learning that was taking place with a Māori world view. To do this we trialled several systems of analysis or frameworks created from Te Aho Matua, the philosophical document that guides kura kaupapa Māori. We also uphold this philosophy in our kōhanga reo. Initially we maintained a dual focus on the learning dispositions that link to Te Whāriki, along with Te Aho Matua. It was then that we moved to recording our learning stories on A3-size paper. In this format they lent themselves more easily to the collective approach to assessment that suited the Mana Tamariki whānau. More people could group around a story to discuss it and that meant whānau could bounce ideas off each other in a way conducive to our way of functioning.

We now have a quite a file building up – evidence of the extensive trials and adaptations we have undertaken. We hope it will continue to expand because that will mean we are still learning and striving to improve. We have learned that we cannot “master” assessment. As with a Māori world view, the process is continually emerging and our understanding is constantly evolving. The realisation that each learning story fulfils numerous purposes has astounded us. One story becomes an assessment of learning and teaching for all, a language resource, a documentation of history, a planning tool, a report, a piece of evidence for external agencies – and the list goes on.

Currently we produce our stories in A3 format with colour pictures. We adorn the walls of the kōhanga with documentation in an attempt to invite the children’s reactions and responses as well as adults’. We store the documentation in A3 clear files so that the whānau, including children, can revisit the stories as they choose. External feedback about the way we document the stories is mostly positive. However, we still feel that we have a long way to go. I’m not sure if it is a route we are travelling or a circular path that we keep traversing, deepening our understanding with every round. We look forward to continuing the journey and further developing our theories and ideas about how we can better understand the way in which children learn and grow.


Last updated: 16 March 2010