Te Aho Matua Kura Kaupapa Māori

Philosophy and Purpose

Students attending Te Aho Matua kura kaupapa Māori experience a unique education reflecting the distinctive values and beliefs of Te Aho Matua.

In Te Aho Matua Kura Kaupapa Māori:

  • te reo Māori is the principal language of instruction
  • the charter requires that the kura operates in accordance with Te Aho Matua
  • the special characteristics described in the charter prescribe the particular character of each kura.

Te Aho Matua sets out the founding principles and philosophy for Te Aho Matua kura. Te Aho Matua is published in the New Zealand Gazette under the authority of the Minister of Education and provides the means by which kura identify themselves, as well as a philosophical base for teaching and learning.

The introduction of the English translation of Te Aho Matua 1 states that:

Presented in the Maori language, Te Aho Matua has been written by the pioneers of Kura Kaupapa Maori as a foundation document for their kura.

The document lays down the principles by which Kura Kaupapa Maori identify themselves as a unified group committed to a unique schooling system which they regard as being vital to the education of their children.

Te Aho Matua provides a philosophical base for the teaching and learning of children and provides policy guidelines for parents, teachers and boards of trustees in their respective roles and responsibilities.

Te Aho Matua is intended for inclusion in the charters of kura kaupapa Māori as the means by which their special nature can be clearly identified from mainstream kura.

Te Aho Matua also provides a basis from which curriculum planning and design can evolve, allowing for diversity while maintaining an integral unity.

Te Aho Matua has been written in a typically elliptical Māori style, which implies meaning and requires interpretation rather than translation.

Te Aho Matua is presented in six parts, each part having a special focus on what, from a Maori point of view, is crucial in the education of children for the future.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

Section 155 of the Education Act 1989 provides for the designation of a state school as a kura kaupapa Māori through notification by the Minister of Education in the New Zealand Gazette. Section 155a specifies that:

  • Te Aho Matua is a statement in te reo Māori that is prepared by the Kaitiaki of Te Aho Matua and published in the Gazette by the Minister.
  • The Kaitiaki is the body commonly known as Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa.
  • The Te Aho Matua document will be amended by the Minister only if the Kaitiaki ask the Minister to do so.
  • The Minister is also required to publish a statement of explanation in English of Te Aho Matua but the Kaitiaki must approve the explanation as being an accurate interpretation.

The effect of section 155 is to specify and empower the special character of Te Aho Matua Kura Kaupapa Māori.

Section 155 also stipulates that the Education Act 1989 applies to Te Aho Matua kura as it does to other schools. In ERO’s experience, high performing kura that operate in accordance with Te Aho Matua meet the expectations for high quality education as set out in legislation, specifically in the National Education Goals and National Administration Guidelines. Where Te Aho Matua is the primary driver for the operation of the kura, the legislative and educational requirements are met through the successful implementation of the Te Aho Matua philosophy.

Implications for Evaluation

Kura need an evaluation process that is straightforward, that promotes positive learning outcomes and that assists them to improve what they do. ERO needs a specialised methodology for reviewing these unique schools if it is to do justice to the intentions of the Act and the philosophy outlined in Te Aho Matua.

Following on from the work of the 2001 Ministerial Working Party 2, there is now an agreed approach for both kura and ERO to use. ERO and kura use the methodology and tools during the external review process. In turn, kura and the Rūnanga use the tools in their ongoing internal review and improvement activities.

Any group with sufficient evaluation and cultural and linguistic competency could implement this methodology. ERO and the Rūnanga agree to review kura performance in the spirit intended, with an emphasis on evaluation capacity building. ERO’s focus is on building evaluation capacity and for the Rūnanga to focus directly on evaluating the performance of the kura.