High School with compulsory te reo Māori classes welcomes PM

By Talisa Kupenga

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kicked off Māori Language week by visiting Wellington High School, which has already made te reo Māori a compulsory subject. 

The initiative starts at enrolment for Year 9 students.

Student Leo Lewis (Ngāti Tuwharetoa) says, "I just thought it was kind of appropriate to learn it and also I grew up in an area with a lot of culture behind it but I was arrogant to it so I've decided I'm going to make an effort."

It's an effort the government supports, given that it wants te reo Māori as a core, but not compulsory, subject in primary and intermediate schools by 2025.

Ardern says, "This is so much about demonstrating about where we want to go and where we want to be."

Coalition partner and NZ First leader Winston Peters is against making te reo compulsory, which could be why the government is avoiding the use of the term.

Whereas The Greens want to see te reo as a core subject across all schools by the same deadline.

When asked whether making te reo Māori a core subject was the same as compulsory, Ardern says “Well, we are trying to integrate the language into primary and intermediate and early childhood education so that will be by default part of that curriculum that is already being learnt and will continue to be learnt."

But with a teacher shortage and small numbers of te reo Māori speaking teachers this remains a huge challenge for the government.