Waikato Journal of Education
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How to Cite

Barker, M. (2017). The Māori language science curriculum in Aotearoa/New Zealand: A contribution to sustainable development. Waikato Journal of Education, 5. https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v5i0.398


New Zealand's Maori language science curriculum, Putaiao i roto i to Marautanga o Aotearoa (1996), which followed Science in the New Zealand Curriculum (1993), was not introduced because of a need to convey meaning; all New Zealand Maori (currently about 14% of the total population) speak English. Nor did it arise primarily to promote science education. Instead, along with other Maori language curricula in Mathematics and Technology, developed in the 1990s, Putaiao was one of the responses to a growing public desire (resonating with legislation in the 1980s) to promote Maori language, culture and values in their own right. The writing of these Maori language curricula, however, took place in the absence of any detailed overview statement from government about their purpose. In the case of Putaiao, feedback to the writers from government was notable for directives that the structure of this new curriculum (like the pre-existing English language science curriculum) comply with the generic New Zealand Curriculum Framework, the document which initiated the whole process. The Framework's non­negotiable requirement that all curricula present content knowledge in separate strands, and that learning always be described in terms of a linear system of levels, posed considerable challenges for the writing team. T he outcome is that, in its final version, Putaiao is basically a translation, with some rearrangement, of the English language document. Its strength is that, thanks to the Maori vocabulary for science terminology which its writing stimulated, Putaiao makes possible the extended use of Maori language in school science lessons. On the other hand, the received parameters of the Framework meant that Putaiao basically reflects little that can specifically b e identified as Maori knowledge structures or epistemologies. This deficiency calls into question how far Putaiao will contribute to New Zealand's sustainable development - the making possible of genuine choices in the future. Prior to the 1980s, sustainable development in a bicultural context in New Zealand had been legislated for in terms of material assets, especially matters concerning land ownership. The case of Putaiao suggests that sustainable development through the use of an indigenous language in schools, in turn, raises even deeper-level issues of cultural ownership.


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