Streaming in school ingrains "sense of hopelessness" in Māori and Pasifika students

March 29, 2023

Streaming in school ingrains

The design team behind Kōkirihia at the launch last Monday. Photo: Supplied.

A Māori-led initiative to remove what has been described as the “racist” streaming system in Aotearoa schools by 2030 was announced last week.

The launch of the Kōkirihia initiative includes a plan by Tokona te Raki, a Māori futures collective focused on achieving Māori equity in schools, to phase out streaming.

Tokona te Raki Christchurch-based project manager Piripi Prendergast says Kōkirihia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, New Zealand education unions, iwi leaders and NZQA, is focused on removing the “systemic barriers” to educational success, especially for Māori.

“There is no benefit to streaming. Particularly for those in the bottom classes, you come away with that feeling of ‘I’m dumb’. That affects your self-esteem, your confidence and it becomes a mental health issue.”

Aotearoa has the highest streaming rates of any OECD country except Ireland, and it has one of the largest disparities between the highest and lowest achievers in school, according to a Kōkirihia study.

The study revealed that these disparities apply particularly to Māori and Pasifika students, who are more likely to be placed in lower-ability streams despite their potential.

Prendergast says this ability-based grouping reinforces an “ingrained sense of hopelessness” for Māori students.

“People see those bottom groups and go, ‘oh, Māori are dumb’, which feeds into that stereotype, and sometimes for Māori it internalises that stereotype, so they start to believe it themselves.”

The Kōkirihia study shows that students placed in ‘low’ ability groups from a young age will find it difficult to move out of them.

“You’ll stay there all the way through primary, all the way through secondary, and perhaps those career dreams that you had, they’re not attainable anymore, because you’ve been taught different things,” says Prendergast.

Viscount Primary School in Mangere, with a roll of over 90% Māori and Pasifika students, has already seen success in replacing streaming with alternative teaching approaches such as ‘reciprocal teaching’.

Reciprocal teaching focuses on collaborative, mixed-ability groupwork that allows for the teacher to analyse a child’s learning experience within their student-led groups, instead of addressing the class as a whole.

Viscount school principal, Shirley Hardcastle, made a statement in support of the Kōkorihia study noting the potential of this “culturally responsive” learning approach to make a real difference.

“We are resonating with the way children understand and live their lives. They understand how to work in groups, they understand at a very deep level what it means to cooperate, what it means to help another person.”

The first aim of the Kōkirihia launch is to initiate a kōrero, encouraging school staff, communities and whanau to examine the proposal with a view to moving the education system towards a more equitable future.

Piripi Prendergast outlines the whakapapa of the streaming system in Aotearoa:

Auckland's Matariki festival this year highlights indigenous art

Auckland's Matariki festival this year highlights indigenous art

Nabeelah Khan June 12, 2024

University students and professors weigh in on newly proposed ‘assistant psychology’ role

University students and professors weigh in on newly proposed ‘assistant psychology’ role

Nabeelah Khan June 5, 2024

Giving journalism a ‘face-lift’ in a time of crisis

Giving journalism a ‘face-lift’ in a time of crisis

Jamie Lawlor June 4, 2024