Research and Policy


In the early nineties, a group of people who had been educators in English medium, Māori medium and special education settings, and who were concerned with the inequitable educational outcomes faced by New Zealand’s Māori population, began to work together.

Over 20 years, this group of Māori elders, a Pākehā academic, Emeritus Professor Ted Glynn, and Māori practitioners came together as a metaphoric whānau to undertake research that aimed to support educators work more effectively with Māori students and their families.

Under the auspices of the Special Education Services this group was established as the Poutama Pounamu Education Research and Development Centre in 1995.

Poutama Pounamu

Through our iterative, research and development collaborations, we learned more effective ways of working together within Kaupapa Māori principles yet also within the Treaty of Waitangi principles of partnership, protection and participation.

We undertook research in the areas of socio-cultural literacy learning, collaborative home-school responses to behaviour, Māori language transitions, special education, and we developed and trialled a number of observation and Māori language assessment tools.

We also wrote about our research experiences.

In this time, we learned the importance of developing relationships of trust with Māori students and their families, in ways that maintain respect for each other and with them as central to the work.

This involved understanding and promoting cultural relationships and collaborative approaches to understanding and resolving problems.

It also involved supporting practitioners to participate from positions of agency that acknowledge and support the expertise of the child and their family, rather than from positions of perceived deficit.

In the late nineties, when the research centre had become part of the Ministry of Education, our work began to merge with that of Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop at The University of Waikato and then into the development of Te Kotahitanga in 2001.

We dedicate this section of our story to Rangiwhakaehu Walker (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāiterangi) and Mate Reweti (Ngāti Porou) who over a period of twenty years, provided researchers from Poutama Pounamu with the cultural leadership and expertise to work confidently and competently with Māori and Pākehā within many different home and school communities.

Without the guidance and advice of these wahine toa, our research would not have been undertaken, nor would the messages have been so clearly received and understood.

​Te Kotahitanga

Amongst other Māori scholars (Penetito, 2010; Smith, 1996), Durie (1996), highlighted that the “erosion of identity… has had devastating effects on Māori well-being” (p.17). Understandings such as this together with evidence of the longstanding disparities between Māori and non-Māori students saw the beginnings of Te Kotahitanga (Unity of Purpose).

This research began by engaging with the experiences of Māori students, their whānau, teachers and principals to identify what would engage these students with schooling (Bishop & Berryman, 2006).

As a result, an iterative school reform initiative, that emphasised the crucial importance of culturally responsive and relational pedagogies, emerged as a means to engage Māori students with learning (Bishop, Berryman, & Wearmouth, 2014).

The outcomes of Phase 5 of this initiative showed the significant importance of operating within such a pedagogical response (Alton-Lee, 2014).

Hui Taumata Mātauranga

The beginnings of Te Kotahitanga occurred as Ngāti Tūwharetoa in association with the Minister of Education of the day, hosted national conferences of Māori leadership in education (Hui Taumata Mātauranga) to find a new approach to Māori student achievement in education.

These meetings and their ensuing effect on educational policy provided a kaupapa Māori model through which traditional Māori social structures could support the sharing of knowledge between both Māori and non-Māori educators in today’s society, in ways that protected the legitimacy and authority of Māori knowledge.

From these meetings emerged Durie’s (2001) framework for considering Māori educational achievement: “Enabling Māori to live as Māori; Facilitating participation as citizens of the world; Contributing towards good health and a high standard of living” (Ministry of Education, 2005, p.19).

Video: Mason Durie - School in the Community

Video: Mason Durie - Mātauranga Māori

​Ka Hikitia

These goals contributed to the Māori education strategy called Ka Hikitia that aimed at a “stepping up [of] the performance of the education system to ensure Māori are enjoying education success as Māori” (Ministry of Education, 2009, p.11).

The goals set out in this strategy, and refreshed in 2013, involved raising the quality of education, supporting growth of quality kaupapa Māori education and supporting greater involvement and authority of Māori in education.

In response to Ka Hikitia a number of resources have been developed. These include the following.ātaiako – Cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners

Developed by the Education Council of New Zealand to help teachers develop genuine and productive partnerships with Māori students, their whānau and communities.


Developed by the New Zealand School Trustee Association, this is a self-review tool for Boards of Trustees to establish Māori cultural responsiveness.

Auditor General reports

From 2012 to 2017, the Auditor General undertook an audit of the implementation of Ka Hikitia with the assistance of a Māori Advisory Group, including Associate Professor Mere Berryman.

The reports affirmed Ka Hikitia was a good strategy and urged the Ministry to implement it more effectively to fully realise it’s potential.

These reports are available on the Auditor General’s website.

Building on Success 2014, the Ministry of Education Building on Success programme commenced.

The Kia Eke Panuku component built on understandings gained from five previous programmes including Te Kotahitanga. The other four were He Kākano; the Starpath Project for Tertiary Participation and Success; and the Secondary Literacy and Numeracy Projects.

Kia Eke Panuku was undertaken as a whole school reform initiative that operated in 93 secondary schools across New Zealand.

The Kia Eke Panuku professional development provided Strategic Change Leadership teams with interdependent practices aimed at: Secondary schools giving life to Ka Hikitia and addressing the aspirations of Māori communities by supporting Māori students to pursue their potential.

ERO's new Evaluation Indicators Framework

The Education Review Office has now updated its evaluation indicators framework. The new version reflects both a deepening understanding of school improvement and the role evaluation plays in this work.

There is an explicit emphasis on equity, excellence and wellbeing. This framework was trialed in 2016 and put into practice in 2017.


  • Alton-Lee, A. (2014). Ka Hikitia Demonstration Report: Effectiveness of Te Kotahitanga Phase 5 2010-12. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Auditor-General. (2012). Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017. Wellington: Office of the Auditor-General.
  • Auditor-General. (2013). Education for Māori: Implementing Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success. Wellington, Office of the Auditor-General.
  • Auditor-General (2016). Education for Māori: Using information to improve Māori educational success. Wellington. Office of the Auditor-General. Retrieved from OAG website.
  • Berryman, M. (2008). Repositioning within indigenous discourses of transformation and self-determination. Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The University of Waikato.
  • Bishop, R., & Berryman, M. (2006). Culture speaks: Cultural relationships and classroom learning. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.
  • Bishop, R., Berryman, M., Wearmouth, J., Peter, M., & Clapham, S. (2011). A summary of Te Kotahitanga: Maintaining, replicting and sustaining change in phase 3 and 4 schools, 2007 - 2010. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Durie, M. (1996). Identity, conflict, and the search for nationhood. Paper presented at the RANZCP Conference, Wellington. Retrieved from
  • Durie, M. (2001, February). A framework for considering Māori educational advancement. Hui Taumata Mātauranga, Opening Address, Taupo. Department of Māori Studies, Massey University.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Ka Hikitia. Managing for success: Māori education strategy 2008 – 2013. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from Ministry of Education.
  • Penetito, W. (2010) What’s Māori about Māori education? The struggle for a meaningful context. Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press.
  • Smith, Graham, (1997). The Development of Kaupapa Māori: Theory and Praxis. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education, University of Auckland.