Summary of our Education for Māori reports.

The Māori Advisory and Reference Group has been proud to support the Education for Māori audit programme because it will help produce a society in which every child can thrive physically, academically, socially, and culturally. Education is the most effective means to an equitable society. There are links between a parent's and a child's educational attainment, between education and health, education and income. In short, better education produces better lifelong outcomes.

Our focus is on education and the education of Māori students. In the past, this has often been seen as an achievement gap issue.

The so-called achievement gap is a result of many different interactions. Maybe, as some others already do, we could try instead to think about the achievement gap as a measure of a debt that has accumulated in our education system over many years.

When a person has a debt they can either be preoccupied with how much is owed (the gap) or they can do something about reducing the debt. Hand-wringing won't reduce the debt. Only by changing what you are doing, and changing attitudes and behaviours, will you reduce the debt. Many have been trying to change attitudes and behaviours in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and efforts have gathered pace since about the 1970s.

The debt in our system is made up of colonial, cultural, economic, moral, and social components. The social and cultural debt, despite creaks and groans, has been reducing, and te reo Māori and tikanga Māori are better recognised and supported. We sing our national anthem nowadays in two languages.

The colonial debt has been a focus since the 1970s and Treaty settlement processes have directly addressed this part of the debt. Numerous companies are now owned by iwi and some iwi have assets of more than a billion dollars. More iwi are working towards those same sorts of gains.

There is widespread agreement that the education sector has failed to deliver equitable education outcomes. However, we think the sector is united by a sense of determination to do better. This collective determination helps reduce the moral debt.

The economic debt is challenging. More effective use of investment rather than more investment per se will help. Connections are growing between education, health, social, and justice system spending. Many recognise the difference that a holistic, co-ordinated approach focussing on outcomes can make. As this report says, the education sector needs to become smarter about what works to produce better results for Māori students across a very diverse schooling and socio-economic landscape. Cost-effectiveness evaluation and the removal of ineffective initiatives will help get better value out of expenditure.

As this report also points out, there is a huge opportunity for schools to learn from each other about what is effective. Identifying the specific needs of specific students can also smarten the use of existing investment. Another proven value-building activity is to create effective relationships with whānau and iwi and to review those relationships. This report recommends sticking with the existing strategy Ka Hikitia – and not allowing it to wither on the vine – as another way to get better value out of the investment already made rather than replacing it with something new.

The unmet potential, missed opportunities, and the profound sense of loss of personal status and mana can be devastating and costly.

Like the household that has too much debt everyone shares in some way in the cost of that debt. And like the household that reduces its debt, everyone will share in the benefits.

Preparing this final report has been more than just an imperative to work and talk together. Five years of our group's interactions with the staff of Te Mana Arotake has engendered copious reflections of experiences that have taken place under such terms as "school reform", "effective schools", "systems renewal", and so on. Many of the discussions have been aimed at helping us see, more intently, the school world and how it has the potential to serve tamariki and their whānau, so that the school world can build the capability for future advancement.

Mere Berryman
Lorraine Kerr
Angus Hikairo Macfarlane
Wally Penetito
Graham Hingangaroa Smith

October 2016