Te Puawaitanga: Partnerships with tamariki and whānau in bicultural early childhood care and education

Funding year: 
2 years
ECE sector
Project start date: 
January 2006
Project end date: 
January 2008
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Jenny Ritchie and Dr Cheryl Rau
Research team members: 
Lee Blackie (senior teacher, Dunedin Kindergarten Association).
Research partners: 
Thames/Coromandel Playcentre Association; Kindergartens Hamilton;South and North Taranaki, Dunedin, Central North Island and Tauranga Regional Free Kindergarten Associations and the associated teachers within. There are too many to name here but your support and the work you did with us as co-researchers was invaluable.

Project Description

This project sought to document, explore, and theorise the experiences of a diverse range of voices of tamariki/children, whānau/families, and educators from early childhood centres where the programmes reflect the bicultural mandate contained within key regulatory and curriculum statements. These include the Ministry of Education’s Desirable Objectives and Practices (DOPs) (Ministry of Education, 1996a) requirement 10c, whereby management and educators are required to implement policies, objectives, and practices that “reflect the unique place of Māori as tangata whenua and the principle of partnership inherent in Te Tiriti o Waitangi”, and the national early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, which states that, “In early childhood settings, all children should be given the opportunity to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both partners to Te Tiriti o Waitangi” (Ministry of Education, 1996b, p. 9).

Te Whāriki has been acknowledged as progressive in its sociocultural orientation (Nuttall, 2002, 2003) which emphasises the valuing of diverse identities (Grieshaber, Cannella, & Leavitt, 2001) and knowledges of a kaupapa based in the partnership signified in Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Ka’ai, Moorfield, Reilly, & Mosley, 2004). While early childhood educators are required to demonstrate that their programme delivery is consistent with Te Whāriki, there is evidence that many centres fall short in the depth to which they are able to deliver genuinely bicultural programmes (e.g., Education Review Office, 2004). This situation has implications for teacher educators and professional development providers (Cherrington & Wansbrough, 2007; Ritchie, 2002).

The late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu highlighted the need to listen to children (as cited in Kirkwood, 2001), this insight supported by “a growing body of research suggesting that the participation of children in genuine decision making in school and neighbourhood has many positive outcomes” (Prout, 2000, p. 312). Research that articulates tamariki and whānau voices has the potential to further extend educators’ understandings and implementation of ways of enacting Māori values and beliefs, enabling them to enhance the effectiveness of their education programmes, through an increased capacity to initiate and sustain responsive, respectful relationships with children, parents, and whānau.