Figures recently released by the Ministry of Education show that there has been a steady growth in Maori tertiary enrollments. However, although there has been growth in enrollment figures, this growth has been attributed primarily to growth in attendance at Wananga and educational institutes that empower Maori to embrace not only the learning of their history and culture, but teach mainstream educational courses in a manner that appeals to the style and formality of the Maori culture itself.
However, the figures also indicate that Maori are less likely to enroll in tertiary education facilities during the core tertiary ages of 18 to 24. According to the University of Waikato, a number of factors have been identified as affecting the successful participation of Maori students in tertiary education. These include the transition and adaption to unfamiliar environments and learning procedures, inappropriate support systems, financial barriers and a lack of social and academic support. A number of studies have highlighted the high number of students who are first generation participants in tertiary education, for whom adjusting to the practices and rules of a new environment without the support of whanau (family) is difficult.
Nonetheless, the emerging signs and trends of increasing Maori participation in tertiary education institutes are encouraging. Further research into the role of Maori education has highlighted the need to tailor the learning style, experience and environment to suit the aspirations of the Maori culture and the value of the whanau.
According to a review of Maori education conducted by MAI in 2007, the further education of the individuals, both young and old, is essential for the continued development and future prosperity of Maori and the culture. With a better educated population base, the review proposes that Maori will be better able to determine their own futures and prosper, both economically and socially. Marginal educational records and enrollments affect the future prospects of the individual and the whanau. However, several initiatives are proving very successful in respect to enrollment and completion rate of Maori students. These include empowering Maori in the community to take on leading roles in education institutions, developing role models that young Maori aspire to replicate.
Leading tertiary providers in New Zealand have realised these facts and have created tertiary environments that not only cater for the general public, but provide specific learning styles, teachings and learning environments that are conducive to the continued promotion of Maori education. Those who are serious about Maori education have gone so far as to provide customary Maori buildings, such as the marae, which is not only the focus of the whanau, but learning and education. Plus some institutions provide a “Manaakitanga” programme designed to support students’ success in their studies.