07 SES 07 B, Minority Students' Perspectives on Participation
The goal of New Zealand’s education system, as with most countries, is “success for all students” as encapsulated in the twin drivers of excellence and equity (Ministry of Education, 2016). In response to these twin drivers, similar to other countries, New Zealand, puts a great deal of emphasis on the academic success of students and on comparing the educational performance of different groups of students. As a nation, we pay particular attention to achievement results differentiated by student ethnicity. Almost all educational reporting (at school level and at a national level), provides comparative data on the performance on New Zealand’s indigenous population (Māori students), compared to their non-Māori student peers. In this paper, we argue that the relentless focus on excellence and equity has a detrimental impact on the well-being and educational success of students unless there is deliberate and appropriate attention is simultaneously paid to the concept of belonging.
‘Belonging’ as a foundational education principle is not alien to New Zealand’s education system. New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum – Te Whāriki - is underpinned by the vision that children “are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging, and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.5). This vision statement shows the importance placed on learning, on holistic wellbeing and on a sense of belonging – with an implicit reference to acknowledging that even very young children can both give and receive within our society (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.16). This positioning reinforces the centrality of the notion of belonging as being foundational to learning and a significant contributor to ongoing and lifelong learning.
The curriculum vision statement for students in the New Zealand compulsory schooling years (typically aged from five years old to about 18 years old) does not put the same emphasis on the students’ sense of belonging. The New Zealand Curriculum vision statement is for young people “who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 8). While the reader of the New Zealand Curriculum and this statement can assume that a sense of belonging is required to reach the vision, this is left implicit within the curriculum document.
An unrelenting focus on academic achievement may be desirable and even laudable within the state-funded education system. However, a focus only on equity and excellence, without a corresponding focus on belonging, closes down discourses that open other ways of thinking and being. There is a lost opportunity to explore a broader view of education that opens discussions and foci on “belonging, being, and becoming” – concepts that underpin the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia and are the descriptions raised by McLaren in Berryman, Nevin, SooHoo, and Ford (2015, p. xiii) as an alternative framing for schooling. In addition, the relentless focus solely on academic excellence and equity can have severe and ongoing consequences for our students – particularly those who are seen to be located outside of the dominant, mainstream society.
Our research question is: What is the impact on students’ well-being and educational success, particularly minoritized students, when there is a national focus on excellence and equity without appropriate attention is simultaneously paid to the concept of belonging?
In this paper, we present an overview of national and international research and literature that demonstrate a persistent and pernicious disadvantage to Māori students is woven into the very fabric of New Zealand’s education system. We also report narratives from Māori students who, over a considerable period of time, have related their ongoing experiences in the New Zealand education system. These narratives are drawn from two research projects. The first was conducted in 2001 where student experiences were gathered in conjunction with the introduction of a New Zealand Ministry of Education funded school reform initiative called Te Kotahitanga (see Bishop et al, 2006). Participants within five school communities were interviewed and the themes from these students’ experiences are summarized within Culture Speaks (see Bishop & Berryman, 2006, p.254-5). The second set of narratives are derived from interviews held in December 2015 with 158 Māori students who had been identified by their schools as being successful within the education system and were nominated to attend these interviews. These interviews were conducted as part of another Ministry of Education funded school reform initiative, Kia Eke Panuku, that built on the learnings form Te Kotahitanga. The students came from 58 schools spread across all New Zealand. The students related compelling stories of how they overcame marginalization and alienation to succeed within the education system. They also told of their heartbreak in watching their peers fail and fall within the system – the disastrous coonsequences for these students of living and learning below the line: experiencing an alternative reality to the national rhetoric of excellence and equity or success for all. We conclude by showing how attention to the concept of Cultural Relationships for Responsive Pedagogy significantly impacts on students’ well-being, sense of belonging and subsequent academic success. This concept grows out of two decades of theorizing, research and praxis. Fundamental to the notion of Cultural Relationships for Responsive Pedagogy is the understanding that learning is not simply linked to relationships between people but is deeply embedded in the types of relationships that exist between ourselves, our learners and their families and that these relationships are often deeply embedded in one’s own culture.
The conference theme calls for us all to examine the contributions of educational research to processes and structures of inclusion and exclusion. There are challenges for the European communities and schools as they respond to the ongoing alienation, displacement and absence of a sense of belonging within their students, caused by multiple pressures. The learning from the New Zealand context will provide an insight into how some schools have begun to successfully address implement cultural relationships for responsive pedagogy across their schools, with the resulting positive impact on students’ well-being at school and their academic achievement.
Berryman, M., Nevin, A., Soohoo, S., & Ford, T. (2015). Relational and responsive inclusion: Contexts for becoming and belonging. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2006). Culture speaks: Cultural relationships and classroom learning. Wellington: Huia Publishers. Bishop, R., Berryman, M., & Wearmouth, J. (2014). Te Kotahitanga: Towards effective education reform for indigenous and other minoritised students. Wellington: NZCER Press. Chiu, M. M., Chow, B. W. Y., McBride, C., & Mol, S. T. (2016). Students’ sense of belonging at school in 41 countries: Cross-cultural variability. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47(2), 175-196. Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education (2016) Ambitious for New Zealand: the Ministry of Education four year plan 2016 – 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Education Ministry of Education. (2017). Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa - Early childhood curriculum. Wellington: Ministry fo Education. Ministry of Education (2017), PISA 2015: New Zealand students’ wellbeing report. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education. Willms, J. D. (2003). Student engagement at school: A sense of belonging and participation. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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