Hūtia Te Punga: Empowering rangatahi Māori in tertiary education

On May 28th, MDS staff members attended a webinar to learn more about a unique research project called Hūtia Te Punga, an initiative driven and presented by Ako Aotearoa. They were provided with insights from project lead Dr Eruera Tarena – Executive Director at Tokona Te Raki: Māori Futures Collective, and team members Janine Kapa, Otago Polytechnic and Vai Punivai, BCITO.

The project, conducted across three South Island providers, explored barriers to Māori success in the tertiary sector. Its findings have identified a new and positive approach that has the potential to transform success for Māori in industry, the classroom and in trades-based training.

Rangatahi Māori represent the fastest growing sector of New Zealand’s population with the Māori workforce set to increase by 50% by 2038. As a country we really need to raise our gaze beyond status quo, and look to a more equitable system that empowers our rangatahi to flourish so that they can become the backbone and leaders of the South Island economy.” says Dr Tarena of the project.    

Some of the initiatives outlined in the webinar and in the full report covered the following:

  • Ensure the organisation has professional learning and development tools for connecting staff to Te Reo Maori (Language) and Te Ao Maori (the Maori Worldview) as part of an overall organisational change process. Transforming an individual transforms the organisation.
  • Provide continuous training and improvements in sessions covering beliefs, values, behaviours, the history of Aotearoa and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Include in Te Reo words, Karakia (prayer) and cultural protocols in meetings, training sessions and forums.
  • Establish one-to-one interventions with Maori-Pacific learners regarding academic progress and assessments. Make this learner-informed rather than teacher-directed, which should increase the likelihood of success.
  • Enhance opportunities for flexible learning and micro-credential learning pathways, so that learners earn market-ready skill sets
  • Co-construct the design of the curricula to meet industry requirements for a qualified workforce that can speak knowledgeably about Te Ao Maori.

As MDS continues to develop  their five-year Matawhānui/ Vision for Maori and Pacific Student Success, research projects like this are an incredibly valuable resource for guiding important conversations and informing new initiatives. 

Among the many delights of this hui were Q&A opportunities between the audience and presenters. I asked about the relevance of Treaty of Waitangi principles and obligations, to their research project and recommendations; matters that in various ways impact upon and influence MDS. Eruera’s response, on behalf of the panel, was most encouraging. He stated that within any organisation’s values are where responses to those principles and obligations can best be found. Happily, MDS has such a set of five values alongside three pou/pillars of focus (students, staff and culture) that can guide our actions. They can be found in our soon-to-be-released Matawhānui – Māori and Pasifika Strategic Vision. With the Hutia te Punga project and the Matawhānui in our capable hands, the future of all our students and staff, including Māori and Pasifika, looks very bright." Says Dr. Jo Diamond, Māori Student Advisor at MDS

You can learn more about the project and read the full report here.