Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon is calling for te reo Māori to become a compulsory subject for students till at least year 10. 

In a statement released on Sunday, Foon says while he understood the Government was working towards strengthening Māori education, its strategy "lacks teeth in terms of tangible and urgent action". 

Foon wants to see a five-year strategy put in place for te reo Māori to be incorporated in schools. 

Resourcing and te reo Māori teaching stocks are currently an issue but Foon said if action was taken now and barriers were removed, over the next five years, these problems could be fixed. 

“We have a generation of Māori speakers coming through – the talent pool is there, we just have to make teaching a more attractive proposition.”

Foon says as a lifelong student and advocate of te reo Māori, he recognised its value for the country going forward. 

 “Te reo Māori has helped me build relationships within the communities I try to serve, and it has also assisted in connecting many diverse cultures and Māori.”

Foon has previously shared his view of making te reo Māori a compulsory subject in a letter to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, party leaders and other people with interests in Māori affairs in parliament. 

He wrote that the normalisation of te reo Māori would help address issues around Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the destructive effects of colonisation and structural racism by building empathy, understanding and ultimately allyship.

Foon underlined that Te Tiriti responsibilities require the protection of taonga Māori, which includes te reo.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also included the right to revitalise, use and develop language for future generations, he says. 

Prioritising the language along with New Zealand’s history will help race relations in Aotearoa, Foon says. 

“It is all about building a socially cohesive country where everyone is on the same page and unified in our approach to indigenous culture.”

Top Image: A group of students learning. (File photo) Photo: Daniel de la Hoz/iStock

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