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Opinion: The road to equity and inclusion is a bumpy road

He aha te kai ō te rangatira? He Kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero.

In 2021, I had the privilege of being a judge on behalf of Speech NZ at the Race Unity Aotearoa Speech competition.

What an absolute privilege it was, to sit alongside Meng Foon, our Race Relations Commissioner, Wally Haumaha, our Deputy Police Commissioner, and many more, to listen to incredible speeches delivered by a talented and highly skilled group of rangatahi - our future leaders.

I was interested to observe that the group of finalists didn’t really seem to see this event as a competition... Not in the typical view of a competition anyway, where people are battling for the top prize and viewing their other finalists as adversaries.

This competition was not about the individuals participating, but was a celebration of the collective ideas and ideals of our rangatahi.

These young people already saw themselves as winners, as leaders, as contributors and change makers. It was powerful and engaging, and surprisingly, it bought me a huge amount of discomfort.

Because I knew that the very next day, I’d be getting in my car and driving to one of the most socially, economically and culturally disadvantaged communities in Aotearoa.

I knew that I would be working with teachers whose reason to celebrate was often just when tamaraki turned up to school. I knew these teachers didn’t have a vision that one day, their students could be standing on the Marae delivering a speech on unity as an emerging leader in Aotearoa.

Their aspirations for their students were (and are) micro not macro. Within two consecutive days of my life, I had experienced the deep inequity that exists here in Aotearoa, and personally felt the raw shame that comes with it. This happens to me often.

Regardless of if this tension is new or not, it doesn’t make it any less urgent.

In fact, the longer you leave things, the more urgent they often become. As educators, we cannot depend on a single initiative or action. We need a system-wide change, with a focus on equitable participation and genuine belonging. We mustn’t be afraid.

Tūngia te ururoa kia tupu whakaritorito te tutu o te harakeke.

The release of the Literacy, Communication and Mathematics strategy by the Ministry of Education in March 2022 is, in my view, a giant leap in the direction of addressing equity and excellence for our students. If you haven’t yet reviewed this document, it's well worth some further unpacking:

I appreciate that for many stakeholders across the sector, there are a lot of unanswered questions in the document, and a quick glimpse at education social media pages tells us that many (or maybe a visible few) are concerned.

I see this document as aspirational, a road map, a sneak peek, if you like… Here are some of the highlights, from my perspective:

The explicit inclusion of communication into the strategy.

This has taken us leaps and bounds beyond the simplified “speaking and listening” progressions of the NZC. Communication is contextualised, individualised, and it’s my opinion that the system will reap the benefits of the explicit teaching of communication in so many ways. Those of us focusing on communication across the sector already know this.

Clarity of the key educational system interconnections

This leaves us with no confusion about how we can leverage off our sector capabilities (and there are many) all the while grounding us in Te Tiriti.

The clear strategic actions across 5 focus areas

  • Developing resources and guidance to help kaiako understand and attend to children’s progress in oral language and literacy in the early years, as part of a common practice model.

  • Developing resources, guidance, and tools to support literacy and communication learning for culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

  • Developing a guidance on how to teach literacy and communication in school as part of a common practice model.

  • Designing and developing professional learning for the workforce that is targeted, flexible and aligned with the common practice model.

  • Consolidating a partnership with the National Library, to extend literacy and communication engagement and learning.

It’s a beginning! I’ll wait with anticipation to see what is next.

He konā mai.

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