The summary document for Ka Hikitia, (2009), notes that “the system must fit the student rather than the student fitting the system. Such an approach requires students, educators, families, whānau, iwi, communities and government to work together in partnership and learn from each other”.This evaluation highlights the need for managers and educators in early childhood services to think about what this means for their work with Māori children and their whānau. While some services are highly responsive and focused, many still have some way to go to be both responsive to the aspirations and expectations of whānau for their children and in assisting them to enjoy educational success as Māori.

Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Matauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa, sets a strong foundation and expectation that (mainstream) early childhood services implement a bicultural curriculum that embodies the language, culture and values of both Māori and Pākehā. While most services incorporate a degree of te reo Māori and include some practices consistent with tikanga Māori, incorporating Māori perspectives in planning, assessment and evaluation processes remains a challenge for many.

Not all services have educators who are competent in te reo Māori or managers and educators who understand and acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori cultural values and who can work in partnership with whānau and the wider Māori community to provide high quality education for Māori children.

This evaluation highlights the need for ongoing professional development by providers who are clear about the importance of responsiveness to Māori. It is important that they understand their responsibilities in increasing the skills of managers and educators to enable them to work in partnership with Māori children and their whānau.

Ngā Haeata Mātauranga- Annual Report on Māori Education 2007/08 [17] refers to research [18] that shows 44 percent of parents of Māori children rated as important or extremely important the availability of culturally appropriate services in deciding to participate in early childhood education. With increasing numbers of Māori children attending mainstream services, and the focus on increasing Māori children’s participation, priority needs to be given to helping managers and educators to provide programmes that promote children’s cultural identity.

This evaluation sets some challenges for the sector in building the capabilities of managers and educators to:

  • implement and evaluate a bicultural curriculum that reflects and acknowledges Māori values and beliefs;
  • work in partnership with whānau of Māori children; and
  • support Māori children to develop strong learning foundations that give them the best start possible.