Applying the Concept of Rangatiratanga in Vocational Education: Empower Your Learners Now

What is Tino Rangatiratanga

Learner success

Learner centred

What is Tino Rangatiratanga?

This is part of a series of learner success and learner centred teaching.

Self Determination

Tino rangatiratanga refers to determination by Māori of issues that impact on Māori.

Taken literally, rangatira means chief and -tanga implies the quality or attributes of chieftainship. When you add tino in this context means the phrase can be translated as ‘absolute/unqualified chieftainship’.

The closest English translation is self-determination. And this extends to the learners’ right to define their powers of decision-making, leading to their independence.

“Rangatiratanga” is a key concept in Māori culture that refers to the exercise of chieftainship, self-determination, and sovereignty. It encompasses the idea of having control over one’s own life, land, resources, and cultural practices, as well as having the right to make decisions and take action in accordance with Māori values, beliefs, and traditions.

In Māori culture, rangatiratanga is an essential component of identity and a source of pride and cultural strength. It is based on the belief that individuals have the right to determine their own futures and to live in accordance with their own cultural traditions and values.

In contemporary times, rangatiratanga has been interpreted as a way of empowering Māori to assert their control over their own lives, communities, and cultural heritage. This involves reclaiming Māori land and resources, preserving Māori culture and language, and ensuring that Māori voices are heard and respected in all decision-making processes.

Rangatiratanga is an important principle in kaupapa Māori approaches to education, as it emphasises the importance of learners having control over their own learning and the ability to shape their own futures. By incorporating rangatiratanga into education, educators can support learners in developing their own sense of self-determination and empowering them to take control of their lives and communities.

How does this help describe a learner-centred teaching environment?

Rangatiratanga helps describe a learner-centred teaching environment because we want to develop independent learners who can make their own decisions about their training and lives in general.

This is particularly important for Māori and other learners who have not been served well by our institutions.

We need to develop learners who have the ability to make choices and exercise a high degree of control, such as what they do and how they do it.

Rangatiratanga is a valuable concept in adult education contexts, as it emphasises the importance of adult learners having control over their own learning experiences.

By using rangatiratanga, educators can create a more learner-centred and empowering learning environment, where learners are encouraged to take an active role in shaping their own futures.

How can you support Tino Rangatiratanga

Here are some ways that we – as adult educators – can use the concept of rangatiratanga in our practice:

  • Providing leadership opportunities. Positive opportunities for our learners to be challenged, such as leadership opportunities help develop self-determination, agency and life-long learning skills.
    • Empowering learners: By giving adult learners the opportunity to take control of their own learning and make decisions about their own futures, we can empower them to become more self-determined and confident in their abilities.
    • Encouraging learner autonomy: Rangatiratanga encourages adult learners to take an active role in their own learning, which can help them to develop a sense of autonomy and independence.
    • Fostering cultural understanding: By incorporating Māori cultural perspectives and practices into adult education, we can help adult learners to develop a deeper understanding of Māori culture and values, and to appreciate the importance of rangatiratanga in Māori society.
    • Creating a supportive learning environment: By promoting a supportive and empowering learning environment, we can encourage adult learners to engage more actively in their own learning and to develop their own sense of rangatiratanga

    How do these help?

    These strategies can increase learners’ interest, competence, creativity and desire to be challenged. They also help ensure that students are intrinsically (internally) motivated to study.

    On the other hand, learners who lack self-determination are more likely to feel that any kind of success is out of their control. These learners lose motivation to study, which causes them to feel helpless and believe that they will fail. This becomes another self-fulfilling prophecy and the vicious circle of low achievement continues.

    1. What choices did your learners make to end up where they are now?
    2. What do you do to develop independent learners who can see that they have options and choices in their study, work, and life?

    Reflective Questions

    Here are some reflective questions for us as adult educators to consider when applying the concept of rangatiratanga to our own practice:

    1. How can I empower adult learners to take control of their own learning and shape their own futures?
    2. What steps can I take to create a more learner-centred and empowering learning environment that recognizes and respects adult learners’ cultural heritage?
    3. How can I incorporate Māori cultural perspectives and practices into my adult education practice to foster a deeper understanding of rangatiratanga among adult learners?
    4. How can I ensure that adult learners have a voice in their own learning and that their perspectives and needs are heard and respected?
    5. What strategies can I use to support adult learners in developing their own sense of self-determination and control over their own lives and futures?

    By reflecting on these questions, we can gain a deeper understanding of the importance of rangatiratanga in adult education and identify ways to incorporate this concept into our own practice in order to create a more inclusive and learner-centred learning environment.

    What else?

    Here are some practical strategies that adult educators can do to apply the concept of rangatiratanga to their own practice when working with vocational students and trades training? 

    1. Acknowledge and respect the cultural identity of Māori learners: This includes understanding their history, traditions, and values.
    2. Encourage student voice and leadership: Adult educators can provide opportunities for Māori students to take ownership of their learning and develop their leadership skills.
    3. Foster a culturally safe learning environment: Adult educators can create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that recognizes the unique experiences and needs of Māori learners.
    4. Incorporate Māori perspectives and knowledge into the curriculum: This can involve incorporating Māori stories, legends, and cultural practices into the learning material.
    5. Foster relationships with Māori communities: Building relationships with local Māori communities can help adult educators better understand and incorporate Māori perspectives into their teaching practices.
    6. Encourage the use of te reo Māori and other Māori cultural practices: Encouraging the use of te reo Māori and other cultural practices can help support the cultural identity of Māori learners and help them feel more comfortable in the learning environment.
    7. Encourage a holistic approach to learning: The concept of rangatiratanga highlights the importance of a holistic approach to learning and well-being. Adult educators can apply this principle by considering the whole person, including their cultural identity, social and family circumstances, and physical and mental well-being.

    Author: Graeme Smith

    Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

    9 thoughts

    1. Tino rangatiratanga is also deeply political, having arisen in response to the Crown over Te Tiriti issues. If tino rangatiratanga is theorised as it is in this case as being about self-determination in an education setting for learners, then for them to enact tino rangatiratanga theirs must be in response to issues rooted in Te Tiriti – otherwise it’s not tino rangatiratanga.

      1. Hi Huku. Thanks for these comments. This is important and I will incorporate your comments into the next version. I tend to post things here as a kind of first draft for comment – so this is helpful for my process. Thanks again and kind regards, Graeme

        1. Kia ora Graeme, apologies I just reread and realised I came off a bit curt eeek! I really enjoy the ways you are determining meaning for these concepts with the outcome of tranforming educative practice. Ka rawe koe!!!

        2. Kia ora Huka. Not at all…! I appreciated your comments. I’m still very much a learner when it comes to this content. And as a Pakeha I feel uncomfortable writing about this. But I also know that a large part of my audience are also Pakeha who are empathetic towards these concepts, particularly as they apply to education. The trouble is it’s sometimes hard for people to find ways of understanding. In education, it gets murkier at times as some of the terminology gets used in a way that might be different to more traditional understanding. Ako and tuakana-teina is another example that comes to mind. I’ve been at hui when I’ve heard Kaumatua say that these concepts should not be used outside of the marae. However, these are hard-wired into our unit standards in an education setting – for better or worse. So it’s necessary to engage with them. I haven’t re-posted it here, but I have modified this section of the new course to incorporate what you’ve pointed out. Most people don’t take the time to comment, so I appreciate the time and effort involved when people do. Kia pa to ra…! Cheers, Kereama

    2. Self-determination implies recognition of a superior political power external to the indigenous people that allows a degree of local decision-making, i.e. the settler state. Tino Rangatiratanga is more closely related to the concept of sovereignty, in that it means that there is no entity superior to the group of people who have it. Although there are ways to exercise Tino Rangatiratanga within the current state, i.e. self-determination, in its ultimate form Tino Rangatiratanga demands total self-government, self-management, self-reliance and independence, i.e. the formation of a seperate indigenous government and nation that is a state, in and of itself.

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