Waikato Journal of Education
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Adult literacy
indigenous peoples


Literacy holds very little positive meaning or experience for Māori and indigenous peoples. It has, instead, played a significant role in the breakdown of rich and cherished ancestral ways of life. This has resulted in a general, intergenerational resistance to literacy participation among adult Māori.

Research findings reveal the nexus between literacy, colonialism and imperialism. This critical link is the key determinant of significantly high levels of adult Māori dis-engagement with literacy. Yet, research has also found that adult Māori willingly engage with literacy when it is grounded within a fundamental aspiration of indigenous peoples: to live our ancestral heritage and pass it on to future generations in its full richness and vitality.

These insights challenge the neo-liberal values that dominate international and national adult literacy policy. Māori and indigenous peoples' resistance to literacy participation is not an outright rejection of literacy. They seek, instead, to engage in literacy practice in self-determining ways that restore and strengthen, rather than deny, their ancestral heritage within day-to-day whānau life. Incorporating this aspiration into tertiary literacy policy would shift it away from a position of entrenched neo-colonialism, towards truly post-colonial approaches that promote pluralistic, mutually respectful relationships with Māori and indigenous peoples.

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