Culturally Responsive Early Childhood Education

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Part 1

In this discussion I have explained about myself, my hobbies and the strategies I have used for learning te reo Māori. I have also brought out an understanding about karakia and its importance in the Māori world. I believe my discussion has provided a few ideas on how to learn the Māori language in a much more comprehensive way. I have also included a song which is helpful for learning the Māori dialect while making it enjoyable. Therefore, in my discussion, I have emphasized that learning the language will enhance our performance as early childhood educators as well as provide an effective means of communication with all students.

Part 2

In early childhood centres of New Zealand, it is very important to include te ao Māori since the Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. It is crucial that teachers provide an encouraging environment for Māori students as well their whānau and also to put emphasis on the bicultural aspect of an early childhood centre (MoE, 2017). This is because after the arrival of colonies in New Zealand, the Māori culture and language started to diminish. In order to prevent this from happening inclusion of te reo Māori in an early childhood setting is imperative to make sure te ao Māori survives and thrives (MoE, 2017). Therefore, teachers must be aware of what te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and Treaty of Waitangi is, and the role of implementing these practices in early childhood centres. I have also discussed strategies that teachers can use to encourage the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education.

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Te reo Māori fundamentally represents the Māori culture and identity (Te Puni Kōkiri, 2017a, para. 1). Language is the most unique aspect in any culture and this throws light on a culture’s native practices and methods. Language introduces us to a new perspective and environment that reflects the culture of the land. It also provides knowledge, skills and is also the key to valued belief (Peterson 2000: 225). According to the Māori people te ao Māori was formed from the natural world and is one of the factors that constitute the Māori identity. It has many features and can be manifested in numerous ways. Māori language is the voice of the Māori culture, values and helps to share beliefs of a community. If the language of a particular community is gone, part of that culture and values will also be no more (Fishman 1996: 73). This mandates the importance to include te reo Māori to save it from becoming extinct thereby preserving a culture from disappearing altogether. Research has proved that children who have acquired Māori language from infancy were able to grasp the rules of a language in a much easier way (Bracken 1983: 128). Hence including te reo Māori in early childhood education is a necessary part of a child’s education. Children will find it much easier to learn if their native language spoken at home and their culture are given significance at their early childhood centres (MoE, 2017). The treaty that was signed in 1840 also says that it is important to make sure te reo Māori survives. Therefore inclusion of Māori language is mandatory in early childhood settings.

Tikanga Māori is defined as the Māori customary values, ideas, beliefs and practices (Mead, 2016). Tikanga can also be the rules for a certain action to be done. The Māori consider it as a blessing from their ancestors and it is something that must be nurtured and cherished (Mead, 2016). It is an important part of the Māori heritage, therefore it should be practiced, spoken about, evaluated and embraced (Mead, 2016). All tikanga is reinforced by values, which are Aroha, Whanaungatanga, and Manaakitanga. Aroha include love, compassion, and empathy for children parents and to the profession (MoE, 2017). Whanaungatanga includes the relationship, kingship and connection between the people in an early childhood setting. Manaakitanga includes hospitality, kindness, support, respect, and care for environment and people. In the Māori culture, children should be nurtured by considering Aroha Whanaungatanga, and Manaakitanga (MoE, 2017). These values predominantly focus on sustaining relationships with children, parents and colleagues through love, empathy, kindness and respect in an early childhood centre.

The Treaty of Waitangi is an agreement between two parties which are the Māori and and it represents the bicultural foundation of New Zealand (orange, 2013, MoE, 2017). It has been put into place to protect the country against unruly behaviour. The Māori had believed that the treaty would be a sharing of authority. Three principles of the treaty is recommended for early childhood education in New Zealand to support a child’s learning. They are Partnership, participation and protection (orange, 2013, MoE, 2017). Partnership in the treaty means the cooperation between Māori and. This is applied to an early childhood centre where partnership is among the teachers, children and parents (Hayward, 2004). The second principle which is Participation indicates the participation of parents in centres. The last principle which is protection talks about the protection of the Māori land, culture beliefs and language. This should be applied in an early childhood centre to encourage the use of language, and exhibits that represent Māori culture (Hayward, 2004).

As kaiako, we should actively support the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education. One of the strategies that can be used is by speaking te reo Māori in daily practice (MoE, 2017). This includes using correct punctuations, sharing stories, and greeting children, parents and colleagues in Māori. This will help children to learn the language easily. Creating a positive relationship with the local whānau is also helpful. This is because they influence children’s language skills by narrating stories of local myths and legends, reading Māori books or even talking about the heritage and history to children (MoE, 2017). Another method is by demonstrating respect for tikanga through practice. This can be done by inviting local tohunga such as expert weavers and carvers to the centre to display their work and skills. Māori musical instruments can also be introduced to the children. Playing Māori music in the background will also encourage te ao Māori in early childhood setting. Music is also a useful strategy for children to pick up words and phrases therefore developing their te reo Māori. Discussing and informing appropriate practices that is related to tikanga Māori to increase awareness of the partnership inherited with the treaty of Waitangi is also very helpful. Displaying language prompts is also an effective strategy which will help children develop the language more quickly and helps kaiako to extend their knowledge. Therefore, a symbiotic learning experience can be shared between the kaiako and the students in adopting te ao Māori into daily practices. Providing Māori and natural teaching resources will also support the inclusion of te ao Māori in early childhood education. These methods not only improve the spoken language of the children but also gives them a sense of cultural identity as well as an enforcement towards values which are essential for a “human” existence (MoE, 2017). In this way the fundamental qualities that every human being must have is instilled at the childhood stage itself whilst learning te reo Māori.

In conclusion, the importance of te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and treaty of Waitangi in an early childhood centre has been emphasized. Its practices play a vital role in shaping the educational experience for students at an early childhood centre. I have also discussed strategies which early childhood educators can employ to build up the Māori language among children as well as support te ao Māori to ensure a culturally enriching education for children.

Reference List

  1. Te Puni Kōkiri. (2017). Te Reo Māori.
  2. Retrieved fromāori
  3. Peterson, R.A. (2000). Two ways culture is produced. Poetics, 28, (pp.225-33).
  4. Fishman, J. A. (1996). ‘What do you lose when you lose a language’ Stabilizing Indigenous
  5. Languages [Online] Available:
  6. (Accessed 13/05 2016).
  7. Bracken, H. M. (1983). Mind and Language. The Netherlands: Foris Publications.
  8. Ministry of Education. (2017). Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa, Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Author.
  9. Rokx, R. (Ed.). (2016). Te reo Māori: He taonga mō ā tātou mokopuna. Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Tertiary College.
  10. Mead, H. (2003). Tikanga Māori: Living by Māori values. Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.
  11. Mead, H. (2016).Tikanga Māori: Living By Māori Values (Rev. ed.). Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers.
  12. Orange, C. (2013). The story of a treaty. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget William Books.
  13. Hayward, J. (2004). Te Tiriti O Waitangi- The treaty of Waitangi. In T. M. Ka’ai, J. C. Moorfield, M. P. J. Reilly, & S. Mosley (Eds.), Ki te whaiao: An introduction to Māori culture and society (pp. 151-162). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education.

Part 3

Culture is a way of life with regards to customs, ideas and social behaviour. It has both visible and invisible elements. The visible include signs, images and iconography representing that particular culture whereas the invisible include values, morals and modes of communication. Talking about a culture indicates inclusion of the visible and invisible element. All interactions and learning that happen in an early childhood setting are culturally defined. Every culture has an identity of its own and a cultural identity has three dimensions. Firstly, there is cultural socialization which encompasses how we think and describe about our culture and our decision to select which element of our culture to continue, modify or reject (Derman- sparks, Edwards, 2010). The resource that I have made reflects my culture and the culture of all the children in my classroom. This is helpful for mat time and even for activities because it includes paper boat making as an educational exercise. This resource would help children learn about their own culture while emphasizing their multicultural influence (MoE, 2017).

The reason why I have selected, “Festivals in different countries using Boats,” is because the sea is an element which is mutual to several cultures around the world. Human civilization has found to use boats to transport people or goods and maritime history has emphasized the importance of transport on water before the advent of transportation via air or road ( In my country, the use of boats for trade, transport and travel has been endorsed by history due to their important role in commerce between the Indus Valley civilization and Mesopotamia (McGrail, 2004). Boats have a cultural reference during the harvest festival of “Onam” in my native state of Kerala where a traditional boat race which is a type of canoe racing using paddled war canoes is done. The boat race is done in a highly energetic manner with the rowers paddling their canoes while singing and shouting chants throughout the race ( This topic is a good parallel to that of the te ao Māori because of the similarities seen in their traditional Māori haka performed during kapa haka festivals.

The traditional Maori dance known as the haka taparahi is a characteristic posture dance involving, canoe paddles, long spear – shaped clubs called tewhatwha and taiaha and short clubs called patu. The Māori performs a kappa haka for their Te Rā o Waitangi which is a celebration of Waitangi day ( The common features of the haka is the movement of the arms and legs, wiri (trembling fingers) and moves which include synchronized foot stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping accompanied by loud chanting. The most reported dance done by the Māori people are performed in canoes and is known as a “Song of Defiance” or a “War Song” (Youngerman 1974). The usage of canoes draws a good comparison with my own culture where the war canoes are paddled for the traditional boat race during the Onam festival in my native place. The Māori use canoe paddles during their haka to make actions which look like canoe paddling (Youngerman 1974).

By including the types of boats used for festivals in New Zealand as well as in other countries, including my own children can be exposed to a wealth of cultural history as well as understand the similarities between their own culture and the cultures of those students who are not native to New Zealand. By understanding that cultures have striking similarities to one another can create a sense of belonging and brotherhood among the children in general. This gives them a feeling of being one community helping them to create and solidify a long lasting fellowship amongst themselves. Apart from developing a sense of cultural identity this is also an opportunity for them to embrace others and develop respect for other cultures. The resource also includes an activity which can be enjoyable to children where they learn to make a paper boat so that each one can try to decorate it as per the uniqueness of their own culture. The activity not only enables them to understand in which context boats have been used in different cultures but also ensures a fun learning experience. The usage of boats in different cultural festivals helps each student to share and embrace the differences in their culture whilst maintaining a harmony over the commonalities that are apparent in both the Māori culture and the culture of other countries.

Reference List

  1. Derman-Sparks, L. & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves (pp. 55-60). Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  3. McGrail, Sean (2004). Boats of the world: From the Stone Age to medieval times (Paperback ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 251.
  4. Maori Dancing since the Eighteenth Century – Suzanne Youngerman, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1974), pp. 75-100


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