Executive Summary

What did we find overall?

Evaluation insights by the Education Review Office (ERO), alongside contributions from the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust (Te Kōhanga Reo Trust) and kōhanga reo whānau, inform our overall findings which:

  • create the conceptual framing that underpins success in kōhanga reo
  • clarify the exemplary outcomes for children and affirm the positive influence of whānau values, beliefs and practices in kōhanga reo
  • acknowledge how whānau positively influence success
  • highlight the value of learning environments grounded in te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori.

This evaluation affirms the distinct value of high quality Māori immersion education and its positive influence on children from birth. The findings are emphatic and assert the thesis that children are more likely to experience success as learners within an environment where language, culture and identity are valued and validated.

What is the conceptual framework that underpins success in kōhanga reo?

As a part of this evaluation, ERO identified common themes most likely to contribute to kōhanga reo and their understanding of how to ‘get to great’ and achieve successful outcomes for children. These common themes emerged from our evaluation and the analysis and synthesis of ideas. These themes have been used to create the conceptual framework (refer Figure 1) that underpins what works well in kōhanga reo.

This framework is a diagrammatic portrayal of ERO’s evaluation insights. It shows critical areas of influence where:

  • the child is the focus (ko te tamaiti te pūtake o te kaupapa)
  • intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing (ngā ahuatanga) are paramount
  • te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori are dimensions (korahi) used to illuminate the Māori paradigm
  • the strands of te whāriki (taumata whakahirahira) provide a learning platform that reflects depth and embodies the kōhanga reo philosophy (kaupapa)
  • whānau, kaumātua, kaiako and kaiāwhina create a nurturing, loving and caring environment.

Hauhaketia ngā taonga tuku iho kia puāwai ai – Unearth the treasures of our ancestors so that we may prosper is the name given to the conceptual framework. It refers to the value of the above areas and suggests that all need to be present, tailored, active and activated simultaneously to achieve successful outcomes for kōhanga reo children with their whānau.

Figure 1: Hauhaketia ngā taonga tuku iho kia puāwai ai – Unearth the treasures of our ancestors so that we may prosper

A graphic of four concentric circles. In the centre is TAMARIKI. In the next circle are HINENGARO, TINANA, WHATUMANAWA, and WAIRUA. In the circle outside of that are MANA TANGATA, MANA ATUA, MANA AOTŪROA, MANA WHENUA, and MANA REO. The final circle has, in green, WHĀNAU, KAIAKO, KAIĀWHINA, and KAUMĀTUA, and in between those words are MĀTAURANGA MĀORI, TIKANGA MĀORI, TE AO MĀORI, and TE REO MĀORI.

What are the exemplary outcomes for children?

In 2004, ERO worked with Te Kōhanga Reo Trust to develop the first set of evaluation indicators for education reviews in kōhanga reo. The process we used included the voices of kōhanga reo whānau, ERO’s experience in kōhanga reo at that time, and referenced relevant research information. The indicators developed from this process defined outcomes for children. They included high level competencies such as children interacting with and making sense of the world around them. They also included learning dispositions (maiohatanga) such as courage (manawanui), curiosity (pākiki), love (aroha) and care (manaakitanga). Other desirable outcomes included children’s actions and behaviours, such as taking an interest, expressing a point of view or feeling, and assuming responsibility.1 These indicators are still in use in 2017, and continue to support ERO reviews.

ERO’s evaluation findings from the reviews of this sample study group have provided further insight into what exemplary outcomes for children look like. These are presented in a table, Figure 2. The table provides an overview of evidenced outcomes and could be used for the development of a new set of indicators to define exemplary practice and support improvement for all kōhanga reo. ERO found that children in kōhanga reo who learn and live te reo Māori and tikanga Māori, and develop understanding about their land and their people, grow in confidence, and believe in themselves. This synthesis of learner outcomes is referred to in the table, as one overarching outcome: Children have a strong sense of belonging, are happy and respectful, and are confident, communicative, curious learners.

Figure 2: Exemplary outcomes for children

Children have a strong sense of belonging, are happy and respectful, and are confident, communicative, curious learners.

Ngā Taumata Whakahirahira (strands of Te Whāriki)

Children are developing as confident learners who know and understand Māori beliefs and values. Children have a strong sense of belonging, and environmental awareness and care. Children value and respect themselves, their whānau, hapū, iwi and others. Children explore te reo Māori with increased confidence and accuracy. Children are developing their awareness of the natural and physical environment.

Ngā Ahuatanga (intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing)

Children show that they value who they are and how they connect. Children know their connections to the land. Children know their identity and their place. Children pay attention and respond in a variety of ways. Children independently explore their environment.
Children show that they are calm, happy and positive. Children are confident and calm as they learn and play. Children are responsible, and respectful as a part of the kōhanga reo whānau. Children understand, and are able to communicate with others. Children are developing as curious learners.
Children display positive interactions and behaviour Children interact positively and show they are caring. Children look after themselves and others. Children express themselves with increased confidence and accuracy. Children are eager learners who enjoy making new discoveries and experimenting.
Children are keen to participate and are confident as learners. Children explore and show care for their environment. Children are growing their confidence and responsibility for learning. Children expand their use of te reo Māori. Children learn and associate te reo Māori to the natural world.
Children show that they feel safe and comfortable. Children develop an understanding of their role as tangata whenua. Children grow with positive and supportive learning relationships. Children are confident to speak te reo Māori, to take risks and share their thoughts. Children are inquisitive and curious about the wider world
Children talk about their ancestral heritage. Children share their experiences of the whenua with whānau. Children show aroha, manaaki and āwhina. Children graduate from kōhanga reo with confidence and joy. Children experience other cultures and languages.

How do whānau positively influence success?

ERO concludes that where kōhanga reo whānau, kaumātua, kaiako and kaiāwhina focus what they do, in line with Te Korowai, Te Whāriki and their iwi, hapū and whānau aspirations, then they are most likely to achieve successful outcomes for their children.

ERO defines process indicators as the way to describe those whānau practices, processes, actions and beliefs that contribute to positive outcomes for children. They provide a guide to the probable causes of outcomes and are therefore particularly relevant to reviews focused on improvement (Education Review Office Evaluation Indicators for Education Reviews of Kōhanga reo).

Whānau, kaumātua, kaiako and kaiāwhina make significant contributions to a kōhanga reo that runs effectively, as they assume their natural roles to lead, model, guide, support and influence. They are key actors in the lives of their children. Their roles, practices, processes actions and beliefs are defined in the table in Figure 3. The table provides a summary of evidenced outcomes and could be used for the development of new indicators which define exemplary practice and support improvement for all kōhanga reo.

Figure 3: Whānau roles, practices beliefs and actions

Te Reo Māori, Tikanga Māori, Te Ao Māori, Mātauranga Māori

KŌHANGA REO: Whānau - Leaders, visionaries, decision makers, managers, responsible and accountable learners who are passionate, aspirational and focused

Complete their charter to commit to the provision in kōhanga reo.

Create the vision from Te Korowai and whānau aspiration.

Formalise strategic planning.

Set high expectations for providing loving learning spaces.

Promote physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual wellbeing.

Share their aspirations for their child’s contribution to their marae.

Promote experiences and focus learning on connecting to people and places.

Set high expectations for a comprehensive programme of learning.

Show commitment to focusing a responsive environment and programme.

Commit to te reo Māori use at home, and at kōhanga reo.

Commit to seamless transitions. 

Promote opportunities for children to explore new things and different environments.

KŌHANGA REO: Kaumātua - Leaders, visionaries, repositories of knowledge, keepers and guardians of Mātauranga Māori, who are committed contributors

Contribute to the vision of te kōhanga reo by sharing their knowledge and aspirations.

Share deep knowledge about ngā Atua.

Introduce different karakia, mōteatea and model use.

Share stories about whakapapa and landmarks.

Model the role of mana whenua.

Model leadership and support kōhanga reo as leaders.

Tell stories about whānau connections to each other.

Provide strong language models as users of local hapū and iwi reo.

Focus and commit to sharing all they know and providing whānau support.

Suggest places to visit, learn and experience mātauranga Māori.

Lead and model as experiences are shared. 

KŌHANGA REO: Kaiako - Leaders, teachers, creators and learners who engage, challenge and respond to the needs of children and whānau

Provide programme planning that reflects whānau aspiration and kōhanga reo kaupapa.

Use programme evaluation to support improvement with their practice.

Use assessment information to inform responsive programme planning.

Create authentic situations where children learn about themselves.

Share what they know about child development and learning.

Teach specific tikanga, karakia, mōteatea.

Use the environment for every learning opportunity.

Plan and teach children of different ages and abilities.

Use information about children to develop a responsive programme.

Promote risk taking, introduce new language, develop both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Motivate and challenge.

Promote the use of technology, science and mathematics.

Create different and new learning experiences.

KŌHANGA REO: Kaiāwhina - Contributor, supporters and learners who engage, challenge and respond to the needs of children and whānau

Monitor what children are doing as they learn, develop and play.

Observe children and share this information with kaiako and whānau.

Support children as they learn about ngā Atua.

Help children to learn new karakia.

Encourage babies and young children to interact with other places and people.

Support all children to develop their knowledge.

Support children with special needs.

Talk with children encouraging them to play and learn with others.

Support children to mimic language.

Question and encourage language use.

Support children to engage with different resources.

Promote new learning.

What are the highlights of the learning environments?

ERO’s evaluations identify that where te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori underpin and influence the kōhanga reo environment, children are most likely to be successful.

ERO used its investigative approach (refer Figure 5) to determine the core components of success. The responses to this approach are expressed as broad explanation, supported by significant judgements.

How well are children supported to develop their knowledge of Māori traditions, beliefs and values?

Children are linked to their traditions and the creation of the Māori view of the world. Many traditional stories have their genesis in the world of atua Māori (spiritual deities connected to the physical and spiritual worlds).

A deliberate focus on Māori beliefs and values underpins the provision of a warm and nurturing environment. Learning about whakapapa and the natural physical and spiritual elements helps kōhanga reo children to understand their connections and develop personal pride, self-esteem and self-worth. There are high expectations for the provision of supportive and loving learning spaces.

A small child with curly hair touches the front of a waka on grass

How well do children show their connectedness, belonging, environmental awareness and care?

Children’s learning and development are intrinsically linked to their connections to the physical world. The land is a source of mana. Occupation of the land from generation to generation is recorded in its traditions, landmarks, marae and stories. These locate children at the centre of their tūrangawaewae, or the place and space from which they belong.

The local environment, the land, the whānau, iwi and hapū define and influence the variety and depth of children’s learning. Familiarity with the environment, through cultural learning experiences (Royal Tangaere 2012) and play, creates links and stimulates enthusiasm for children. Positive relationships are encouraged as children learn about other environments, with other people and other communities.

Two children wearing jackets with hoods sit on cushions on the grass with flax in the background

How well are children developing value and respect for themselves, their whānau, hapū, iwi and others?

Children who experience a strong sense of self have the potential to make significant contributions to their community. According to Hemara (2000), the interconnectedness to others and their communities creates a sense of security. For many Māori children, this sense of security is situated in knowing:

  • Ko wai ahau? Who am I?
  • Nā wai ahau? From whom do I come?
  • No hea ahau? From where do I come?

Experiences and opportunities that value and respond to the identity, strengths and needs of individual children support a love of learning and play. A warm and nurturing learning environment underpinned by whanaungatanga creates a sense of belonging and purpose for children. A wide range of cultural learning experiences and play opportunities support the diverse physical emotional and intellectual wellbeing of all children. Strong relationships and enduring commitment to immersion education influence decisions whānau make about their child’s education pathway.

A teacher and eleven students all dressed in red shirts stand on an outdoor stage facing out

How well are children exploring and expressing te reo Māori?

Children are nurtured in environments that naturalise te reo Māori. Te reo Māori is described as a window to the Māori child’s world. It provides spiritual meanings and descriptions of concepts that are uniquely Māori. Te reo Māori is distinctive and nurtures the spirit of the child. Karetu (2008) believes te reo Māori serves to restore an identity for people who see themselves as Māori.

Unwavering whānau commitment to te reo Māori in homes, at kōhanga reo, kura and in communities supports the intergenerational communication of te reo Māori. Focused and seamless transition from kōhanga reo into immersion education strengthens the te reo Māori learning pathway. Effective language acquisition strategies co-construct language development (Royal Tangaere 2012). The spontaneous and purposeful use of te reo Māori builds language capability.

A group of people singing, with four children singing along in the foreground

How well are children developing their knowledge of the natural and physical worlds?

Children’s relationships with the natural world, physical resources and people, impact on what and how they learn. This suggests, that if children come to understand their connections to nature, the universe, their immediate surroundings and people, they will come to understand where and how they fit into the wider world (Mihipeka, 1998).

High quality learning experiences promote exploration of te ao Māori and the wider world. A stimulating learning programme provides motivation and challenge. A well designed, attractive, spacious, and well-resourced environment supports learning.

A young child wtih a red hood touches a tree

How well do whānau use planning and evaluation to ensure they provide high quality learning?

Whānau effectively used planning and evaluation to focus them on the provision of high quality learning. ERO evaluations found that a strong evaluative culture, with internal evaluation process and practices, underpinned effective planning and supported whānau to focus on improvement and accountability. Internal evaluation effectively informed whānau and influenced their decision making. Consequently, children were immersed in an environment based on a strong vision for their success.

A smiling family gathers around a small child and a birthday cake with more small children sat at tables in the background