Native Affairs – Elite School champions Te Reo

Christ's College, one of the country's oldest and most prestigious private schools has included compulsory te reo Māori for all Year 9's.

One of New Zealand’s most prestigious, private all-boys schools is embracing the Māori culture and language for the first time in 167 years.

Christ’s College, a predominant English boarding and day school based in Christchurch, introduced Te Reo Māori as a compulsory course for all Year 9 students.

Speaking to Māori Television’s Native Affairs programme Assistant Principal Robert Aburn said, “In recent times we’ve been very much aware that we’re a microcosm and that we need to reflect contemporary New Zealand society.”

Aburn said the decision to include Te Reo Māori as part of the school’s curriculum was a strategic move made this year by the school’s Board.

“The students of our school need to have an understanding of things Māori - that it is important and accepted. I think it’s an important strategic direction,” he said.

In another bold move, the school commissioned local kapa haka and Te Reo experts Tihi Puanaki and her son Te Huaki to compose a waiata or song for its internationally acclaimed Chapel choir.

“It’s been a great experience for our whānau,” Tihi said. “To be invited into a school as prestigious as this is an honour and certainly breaks down barriers. We’ve formed a special bond with the school.”

The choir used the new waiata as part of their entry in the recent The Big Sing regional competition – an annual event run by the New Zealand Choral Federation. They are still waiting on a decision as to whether they’ve made the upcoming National finals.

“The reception has been nothing but positive. We’ve always had standing ovations and I put that down to the work that’s been put in by our teachers,” said Year 12 student Oliver Fradd.

Robert Aburn says making Te Reo Māori a compulsory subject is important but, “should not just stop at Year 9.”

“It’s important Te Reo goes through the school and that’s a strategic decision that we’ve got to make, and we’ve got to move with the times,” he said.