Auditor-General's overview

Education for Māori: Implementing Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success.

Māori educational success is important for New Zealand. By 2030, about one-third of our students – and, therefore, one-third of our future workforce will be Māori. For Māori students to succeed and for our country's prosperity, the education system must perform well for Māori. In 2012, I began a programme of performance audits, set out in my report, Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017, to answer the question:

How well does the education system currently support Māori students to achieve their full potential and contribute to the future prosperity of New Zealand?

This first performance audit looks at how effectively Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success: The Māori Education Strategy 2008-2012 (Ka Hikitia) was introduced. Overall, I found reason to be optimistic that Ka Hikitia will increasingly enable Māori students to succeed. Ka Hikitia reflects the interests and priorities of Māori well, is based on sound educational research and reasoning, is widely valued throughout the education system, and has Māori backing. Ka Hikitia needs to be seen through to full implementation with sustained vigour, thorough planning, and effective resourcing through the current "refresh" phase and into the future.

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) introduced Ka Hikitia slowly and unsteadily. Confused communication about who was intended to deliver Ka Hikitia, unclear roles and responsibilities in the Ministry, poor planning, poor programme and project management, and ineffective communication with schools have meant that action to put Ka Hikitia into effect was not given the intended priority. As a result, the Ministry's introduction of Ka Hikitia has not been as effective as it could have been. There were hopes that Ka Hikitia would lead to the sort of transformational change that education experts, and particularly Māori education experts, have been awaiting for decades. Although there has been progress, this transformation has not yet happened.

Nevertheless, Ka Hikitia is helping to create the conditions for improved Māori student education success. It is clear that Ka Hikitia has contributed to schools sharpening their focus on improving outcomes for their Māori students. The schools my staff visited were carrying out a range of activities and programmes to lift Māori participation, engagement, and achievement using Ka Hikitia and other related tools and materials.

Although there has been only modest improvement overall in Māori students' academic results since Ka Hikitia was launched, schools are increasingly recognising their responsibility to raise the achievement levels of their Māori students. As one principal noted to my team about improving commitment from the school and engaging with whānau and the community, "You have to take a long-term approach. We're working gently and carefully."

The main aim of Ka Hikitia in 2008 was "Māori enjoying education success as Māori". Measuring "success as Māori" is important but not easy, and we found that many schools struggle to measure it. This and other challenges need to be confronted, such as better collaboration and sharing of ideas and good practice between schools, and more direct engagement and communication with, and stronger input from, whānau and iwi. I will be looking at how entities work together and with whānau and iwi, formally and informally, to support Māori students' educational success in the next audit in our five-year audit programme.

My staff heard from many Māori students about their educational experience as Māori and having their identity, language, and culture valued at school. Most were very aware of the ways their schools and teachers supported them to succeed as Māori. One Year 10 student said: "If I am successful, that means my teachers have done a good job." It is important to recognise Māori student voices as an important source of information about what works to help them to succeed. This feedback should inform successful practices and should remain a focus.

Since 2010, there has been increasing work throughout the education sector to put Ka Hikitia into effect. The Ministry is improving how Ka Hikitia works and is "refreshing" Ka Hikitia with a further five-year phase, Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success. This is an important opportunity to boost practice and results.

Education agencies are also increasing their efforts to work together to support Māori students' educational success. The Education Review Office (ERO) provides leadership, direction, and standards to help to improve school performance for Māori students through national evaluation reports and school reviews. Within schools, my staff noted an increased awareness of the usefulness of performance information. The quality and use of performance information by all public education entities will be the focus of a future audit in my five-year programme.

I have made several recommendations to the Ministry, all education agencies, and schools to help to roll out the refreshed strategy more successfully. Ka Hikitia has more to offer and achieve in terms of improved Māori student education success, with spirited backing throughout the education system and by Māori.

I thank my Advisory Group for their expert input and support. I thank the Ministry of Education's national and regional staff for their valuable help and co-operation. I also thank the representatives of other education sector agencies we contacted – the Education Review Office (ERO), the New Zealand Teachers Council, the Tertiary Education Commission, and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

For this audit, my Office engaged two audit team members on secondment from the Ministry and from ERO, which proved highly useful. I thank the Ministry and ERO for enabling this.

I particularly thank all the school principals, teachers, members of boards of trustees, whānau, and especially the students we talked with. My team were hugely impressed with the calibre of all the young people they met, and I wish them well.

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

23 May 2013

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