What’s the definition?
Literacy is the lifelong journey of building the capacity to ‘read’ and shape Māori and other worlds (p.11).
Where does this definition come from?
Maori Adult Literacy Reference Group. (2001). Te kawai ora. Reading the world, reading the word, being the world. Report to the Hon. Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Māori Affairs. Wellington.
What are some key features?
- Written by Māori for Māori.
- Holistic, philosophical, spiritual.
- Incorporates the idea of being literate in Māori and English.
- Informed by Matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and Māori ways of knowing) as well kaupapa Māori (Māori principles and values).
How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?
If you live in New Zealand, then this definition is relevant. Our learners are Māori. Many of our tutors teach courses where they have 100% Māori learners. And many of these learners have experienced repeated failure in mainstream education. So have many non Maori as well if we’re honest.
The point is that if we want to make a difference to these learners (and many others) we need to look at different ways of teaching and learning.
As we’ll see later on, we can tap into Māori ways of thinking about teaching that can disrupt – in a good way – the kinds of mainstream approaches we’ve always used.
Mainstream approaches to teaching and learning are grounded in a Western academic tradition that goes back to Greek and Roman times. It’s not wrong. But it is wrong for some of our learners.
If you can embrace a more holistic view of literacy and numeracy, you’ll find that you can become a better teacher. It doesn’t matter if you are Māori or not. What matters is some empathy for your learners and an openness to look at other ways of knowing and being.
Have you ever thought about the difference between reading and “reading”? For your learners this includes many things that we don’t think of as traditional literacy. But they matter.
Here’s some of the things that literacy can include under a more holistic and Māori way of thinking about the world:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Oral traditions including stories, songs, genealogies, and prayer
- Reading traditional symbols
- Whakairo (carving)
- Raranga (weaving)
- Ta Moko (tattooing)