Survey shows te reo should be compulsory in primary schools

Attitudes towards te reo Māori are changing, according to a new online survey by Te Ipukarea, The National Māori Language Institution at Auckland University of Technology. 

Te Ipukarea Director Tania Ka'ai says, “Both Māori and Pākehā think that Te Reo Māori is an important part of New Zealand’s national identity and should be compulsory in primary schools. This is what people want for their children and grandchildren.” 

Ka'ai adds that most people who were surveyed strongly agreed that the Māori language should be compulsory in New Zealand primary schools, including 83 percent, 80 percent of New Zealand European and 78 percent of other ethnicities. 

An even larger portion - 95 percent of New Zealand European/Pākehā and 90 percent of other ethnicities agree or strongly agree that the Māori language is an important part of New Zealand's national identity. 

The pop-up survey was completed by 5,391 visitors to the Te Aka Māori-English Dictionary online. The survey sought to gather data on how the online dictionary is used, the language proficiency of users and attitudes towards Te Reo Māori. 

Those who were surveyed identified as Māori, New Zealand European/Pākehā (35 per cent) and other ethnicities (7 per cent). They were evenly distributed by age. And, the largest groups by occupation were professionals (37 per cent) and students (20 per cent).

Professor Ka’ai says the rest of the world looks to New Zealand for inspiration and guidance on how to keep indigenous language alive.

Scandinavian countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden are exploring Māori language immersion models such as Kura Kaupapa and Kohanga Reo – the latter of which was the archetype for Hawaii’s Pūnana Leo.

“We are world leaders in language revitalisation. The next step is for Government to make Te Reo Māori compulsory in primary schools. Now, let’s lead the world in this,” says Professor Ka’ai.

According to Statistics New Zealand, 377,073 students were enrolled in New Zealand primary schools in 2016 – 72 per cent received no Māori language education, 25 per cent studied Māori as a subject or equivalent and 3 per cent were involved in Māori language immersion.