A ‘pandemic of whiteness’ exists in NZ education – Dr Ann Milne

By Te Ao - Māori News

Educator Dr Ann Milne says there is a pandemic of whiteness in NZ Education.

Dr Milne (Ngāti Pākehā) says the fight to remove racism from the education system is far from over.

 “We’ve done nothing about that pandemic of whiteness that affects every aspect of our education system,” Dr Milne says.

She says her role is to challenge Pākehā to do better in schools. Dr Milne does that by providing professional development for schools that raise these issues.

Dr Milne finds much of what she teaches is seen as common knowledge for Māori. Bringing this to Pākehā attention however, does raise a few eyebrows.

“It’s obviously uncomfortable for Pākeha,” Dr Milne says.

“I think we’re uncomfortable when our fragility and privilege is challenged.”

But Dr Milne says the situation is improving. She finds Pākehā educators are willing to learn and engage. But they are yet to understand the size of the issue.

“Only last year a report came out from the Children’s Commissioner that exposed that blatant racism that our children experience in schools.”

Covid-19 exposed the long-term effects of inequities in education. Lack of internet access and devices in whānau made digital education difficult for Māori.

“Those digital inequities that the pandemic exposed, we just lay it on top of the ones that were already there.”

It is her opinion that Covid-19 magnified these issues.

“The only solution really is to first level the playing field.

“We could do that easily, by for example the digital playing field, by ensuring that every kid has a device and has access (to the internet).”

The challenge is to dismantle the house that racism built, and provide education that matches the aspirations of individual whānau.