Should Te Reo Maori be compulsory in all schools

Te Reo Māori should not be compulsory in all schools though it should be available as an option. Te Reo Māori is one of the two official languages in New Zealand it’s also part of the school’s obligation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In Article two of Te Tiriti o Waitangi it states. “Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangatira ki nga hapū – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa.” (Busby, Wiremu 1840). The people and leaders of New Zealand have chieftainship of all lands, estate and treasures they own; Te Reo Māori is considered a tāonga a treasure.

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If Te Reo Māori was to be compulsory in all schools then the beauty and uniqueness of the language would be lost. According to a famous whakataukī; “Ko tōku reo, tōku ohooho, tōku māpihi maurea, tōku whakakai marihi”. My language is my precious gift, my object of affection and my prized ornament of grace. If it is not compulsory, the Tangata whenua will have control over it; not a control where it would be limited to Māori but to those who have a true love or interest in the language and the culture.. Māori language and culture is necessary not only for the full personal development of Māori children but also to assist the Pākehā community to appreciate the history, achievements and character of Māori society. The Waitangi Tribunal did not recommend that Te Reo Māori be a compulsory subject in schools, or that all official documents be published in both English and Māori, “For we think it more profitable to promote the language than to impose it”. .

Te Reo Māori gives student’s access to Te Ao Māori and to Māori world views. Not only is learning Te Reo Māori an important skill for brain development but it also opens up an understanding of the culture. Dr Timoti Karetu is a fluent speaker of five different languages. Te Reo Māori being his native tongue followed by English by learning Te Reo his brain was open to learning new things. Students who aren’t of Māori descent will have a greater respect for the culture and what it has to offer; with Te Reo Māori comes Tikanga Māori.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said “The limits of my language means the limits of my world,” as students compare Tikanga Māori with other cultures in New Zealand and overseas, they develop an understanding of what roles language, heritage, and culture have to play in identity and better understanding of the culture comes from having a better understanding of the language; the students then are better able to engage meaningfully with the people of the culture; As Nelson Mandela stated; “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language it goes to his heart”.

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