The Six Mistakes That Government Agencies Make When Developing Te Reo Plans

In recent years I have been involved with the development of Te Reo Māori plans in government departments (i.e. Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education), local and regional councils (i.e. Rotorua Lakes Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council), iwi organisations (i.e. Ngāti Ruapani, Ngāti Whare, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Whakaue), private companies (i.e. Beef n Lamb NZ), Crown research institutes (i.e. Manaaki Whenua – Land Care Research, Scion – The Forestry Research Institute), banks (i.e. ANZ, BNZ) and television (i.e. Māori Television, TV3). During this time, I began researching the culture and bureaucracies of each of these organisations and discovered that there are six mistakes that they make when developing and implementing their Māori language strategies, policies, and plans. The questions I ask here are:

Do you work for any of these agencies?

Have you been involved in learning Te Reo at any of these agencies?

Do you want to implement an effective Te Reo strategy in your own organisation, but do not know how?

Do you want to know the most effective way of learning Te Reo?

To help answer these questions, let us look at the six mistakes that these organisations make, when trying to develop and implement a Te Reo Plan for their staff. If you did not know already, there is now a new law in place to revitalise Te Reo, within the public sector, called the Māori Language Act 2016. As part of this new regime, the government developed a strategy for government employees to assist in achieving the audacious goal of producing over one million speakers of Te Reo by the year, 2040, called the Maihi Karauna strategy. Step One of this Maihi Karauna strategy requires that each government department will produce its own Te Reo plan by 2020. It is now December 2021. Having explained the context of this article, let us review how Step One of this Maihi Karauna strategy has progressed since 2016.

Mistake # 1: Having No Effective Te Reo Strategy or Logistical Plan

They say that if you do not have a plan, then you plan to fail. Even though the Māori Language Act 2016 requires government departments to develop a Te Reo plan for their staff by 2020, in many cases this has not been done. In an evaluation of the Maihi Karauna strategy, and government departments’ Te Reo plans in April 2021, the research revealed that less than 10 percent of these agencies had even prepared a Te Reo plan to achieve the “audacious” goals of the government’s strategy. After researching the government Te Reo plans, I discovered that, of those who had completed their plans, all of them had poorly devised Te Reo strategies. It appeared that their organisational plans had been developed without much thought, by their managers, “in-house.” Their plans involved teaching their staff Te Reo in weekly face-to-face classes without a curriculum or method to follow. To provide an example of these poorly devised strategies and tactics, most departments planned to hire a part-time tutor, to come into the office, during the lunch hour, to teach a Māori class to interested staff, when required. The classes were based on an ad hoc curriculum with a mixture of Te Reo, tikanga Māori, waiata and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Other departments had developed an ad hoc Te Reo plan which simply sat on the shelf, collecting dust, until approved by a senior management team. During my experience, I noticed that the structure of these organisations was very bureaucratic and hierarchical, it was difficult to deal with.

One example of this was when I developed a Te Reo strategy for internal staff at Māori Television in 2016. After researching and developing the strategy, the CEO at the time had the power to ‘veto’ the proposed strategy. Because of his personal bias towards the strategy, it was put to sleep. In other organisations I worked at, some senior and middle managers functioned as “gate keepers.” The irony of this is that those gate keepers had no idea of how to develop a Te Reo strategy or even spoke Te Reo. Other organisations I worked with, had already approved a Reo strategy but senior management would not grant any time release for their staff to attend class or allocate any financial resources to implement the plan.

An analogy I use here is that developing a Te Reo plan is like building a house. You design an architectural plan for the house but then you do not have the finance approved to build the house – “Auware ake!” “It’s a lost cause.” I share these experiences because they say experience is the best teacher. I hope managers will read this article and learn from my own experiences about the frustrations involved in developing a Te Reo plan and hopefully it will not become a lost cause. It came to a point in my career, where I thought: “Hei aha! Me tuku te reo kia mate” – “Give it up! Let the language die.” But then I remembered the wise words of my kuia (grandmother) who said to me while I was a struggling student at university: “Ahakoa ngā uauatanga, kia toa, kia manawanui” – “Despite life’s challenges, be a champion, be strong-hearted.” So, let us champion this Te Reo Plan!

They say, amateurs talk about “strategy” while professionals talk about “logistics.” Strategy may be defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term goal.” Logistics may be defined as “the detailed organisation and implementation of a strategy”. Do these organisations understand the difference? Are they amateurs or professionals? If they were professional, they would understand the difference and seek expert advice. In any organisation, politics, bureaucracy, and personal bias will prevent any strategy you might devise from becoming operational. However, good leadership, wisdom and teamwork will ensure that a good Te Reo plan will succeed in your organisation.

Kia kaha te reo! – Seek expert advice and external help to develop a professional Te Reo plan.

This is mistake # 1 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans – Having No Effective Te Reo Strategy or Logistical Plan.

Mistake # 2: Tick the Box – Tokenistic Reo Policies

Although it is now law for government departments to prepare Māori language strategies to encourage their staff to learn Te Reo by 2040, many of these organisations are ill-prepared, lack the resources or are simply not interested in promoting Te Reo at all. In my experience as a Te Reo tutor within the public sector, most government departments have a “tick the box” approach where they advertised and hired an “In-house Māori cultural advisor” to take care of their cultural training needs. However, they would not invest any budget in professional learning development for Te Reo training. Te Reo training did not feature in their training budgets. Many of the cultural advisors, who are appointed to these positions, are not trained or qualified Te Reo tutors but are expected to tick the boxes and be the “One-Stop Shop” for all things Māori within the organisation. They help the organisation to tick the “Māori box.” These cultural advisors are expected to teach Te Reo to the entire staff, perform karakia, waiata and pōwhiri. They may even be allowed a budget to organise a staff wānanga, once a year, to learn Te Reo.

I can recall a particular “tick the box” experience where I was invited to deliver a Te Reo strategy presentation to a group of Auckland bank managers. Usually, I am not nervous at speaking in front of a large audience, but this time it was different because in front of me, were over a hundred super corporate looking bank managers just staring at me like – “Who’s this guy and what is he doing here?” I started my presentation and broke the ice by saying: “I am here to celebrate Māori language week with you and to deliver your one-hour per year staff training session in Te Reo Māori.” They laughed and so I continued with my presentation. After the presentation, several of the managers confronted me, “up close and personal,” asking me awkward questions like: “Are you Māori?” – I said “Yes, I am Tūhoe.” Another manager asked: “What dialect do you teach – Tūhoe?”. To this I replied – “I speak the Tūhoe dialect but teach all Māori dialects.” Another manager asked me: “What is the Māori word for save money” – I replied “Penapena mōni.” Another manager said: “Oh no, that’s not the word Scotty Morrison uses.” I said – “Each to their own – he has his translation and I have my mine.” After that I was relieved to get out there and I never heard from them again about developing a Te Reo plan. At least this organisation can safely say that they had achieved their Te Reo KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that year, during Māori Language Week, and it was free – KPI achieved!

Kia kaha te reo! – Stop the “Tick the Box, One-Stop Shop” approach to Te Reo Planning.

This is mistake # 2 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans– Tick the Box – Tokenistic Reo Policies.

Mistake # 3: Relying on Face-to-Face Methods of Teaching Te Reo

It is amazing for me, as a Te Reo training professional, to witness first-hand during these pandemic times, how many Government departments are still encouraging face-to-face methods to teach staff Te Reo. During these pandemic times, many government departments, particularly in Wellington, still have a Te Reo policy of “hire a part-time tutor” to deliver Te Reo classes, using traditional face-to-face methods. Why is this? Simply because they do not have a Te Reo plan and must “tick the box.” It is even more amazing for me, as an Information-Technology Te Reo developer, to see how extremely resistant government departments are, to learning Te Reo though technology such as apps or other online technologies that are now available. There is a Māori saying – “Ka pū te rūhā – ka hao te rangatahi” – “Out with the old and in with the new.” Traditional, face-to-face methods of Te Reo must be replaced with safer, more time-efficient ways of learning like: “apps,” “E-books” and “On Demand Te Reo tutorials.” These new ways of teaching provide the learner with the opportunity of learning in their own time and at their own pace, without the added pressures (time, peer pressures) which face-to-face teaching methods may expose them to. Not only are these face-to-face methods (i.e., physical classes, wānanga) outdated and in breach of government health and safety policies but they are impractical due to the time and work pressures of the staff member.

Kia kaha te reo! – Stop resisting technological advancements in Te Reo planning – “Out with the old and in with the new.”

This is mistake # 3 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans – Relying on Face-to-Face Methods of Teaching Te Reo.

Mistake # 4: Relying on FREE Te Reo Courses

Often, I am contacted by those who are trying to enrol in NZQA “accredited” Te Reo courses at wānanga or polytechnics. They often complain to me that they cannot enrol at their preferred provider because there is a long waiting list. They then ask me whether the courses we offer are free. I explain to them that because we are not funded by the government, like NZQA courses: “Kia aroha mai, sorry – we don’t provide free courses … but we recommend that you stay on the waiting list with your preferred provider until they accept your application, or you can apply to other community or iwi providers in your area.” I also explain to them, that if they are of Māori descent, they can apply for educational grants from their own iwi to study Te Reo. Some iwi and marae offer free wānanga reo for their descendants under the Maihi Māori or iwi revitalisation strategy which are funded through Te Mātāwai. Very rarely, there are organisations and corporates, who offer to pay for their employees’ course fees to study Te Reo. So, there is funding available out there for those who are genuine in their desire to learn Te Reo but cannot afford it.

I do empathise with those who may not be able to afford to enrol in a paid Te Reo course, but in my experience, those who want a free course do not appreciate the course as much as those who pay for it. Many of those who do get the course for free tend to take the opportunity for granted and never commit to or complete their course of study. I cater for those who are prepared to do the full course, who are willing to pay and who will appreciate the expert service they will receive. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and other polytechnics are a huge provider who cater for the masses, and are government funded. On the other hand, Reo Ora are a small provider that are NOT government funded, and who cater for the serious, committed students who are motivated to achieve. So, Reo Ora are more concerned with the quality of learners who choose us rather than the quantity of learners. When I worked in the university, wānanga and polytechnic sector it was all about how many students you could get in your classes. The saying was “It’s all about bums on seats.” I even heard one manager say, “Without bums on seats how are we going to pay for these teaching facilities!” To this I say, I wish the tertiary sector well in achieving your goal of “bums on seats” especially during these pandemic times.

Many government departments I have encountered are more concerned with getting free Te Reo courses to teach their multitudes of employees. This again helps their managers tick the box while at the same time, saving the department money. Perhaps because they have no budget for Te Reo, they rely on the goodwill and aroha of the tutor to teach their staff – for free. Though Reo Ora is a small but thriving learner-focused provider, we can deliver Te Reo classes, at scale, using our comprehensive online platform and technology, while not compromising the quality of the teaching and delivery. However, we are not free. Government agencies like Te Puni Kōkiri or TPK (Ministry of Māori Development) offer Te Reo pay incentives for their staff to study Te Reo. Why don’t other government agencies follow TPK’s example and offer their staff financial support and incentives to study Te Reo? There is a Māori proverb which I have adapted to explain that quality is better than quantity: “Ahakoa he iti a Reo Ora, he pounamu” – “Although Reo Ora are small, we are a treasure.” We have the technological capacity and skills to deliver Te Reo courses to thousands of learners, without compromising the learner experience or the quality or the quality of teaching of Te Reo.

Kia kaha te reo – Stop relying on free courses and Māori goodwill to implement your Te Reo Plan.

This is mistake # 4 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans – Relying on FREE Te Reo Courses.

Mistake # 5: Relying on NZQA Accredited Te Reo Courses

The next question I am asked as a Te Reo provider, particularly by public servants, is: “Are you NZQA accredited?” My answer to this question is – “No.” They then ask: “Why are you not NZQA accredited?” I explain to them – “First, the word accreditation is misleading, and the notion of accreditation is linked to government funded courses of education, which are taught at a polytechnic or wānanga. Our Certificate and Diploma courses in Te Reo are not funded or controlled by NZQA, and so we do not require accreditation.” Our Certificate and Diploma courses in Te Reo are internationally recognised. Reo Ora’s courses have as much “mana” and credibility as the NZQA “accredited” courses.

To further explain the word “accredited,” our Reo Ora courses are not “accredited,” but they are “approved” and “endorsed” by the International Approval and Registration Centre (IARC). Also, our Te Reo courses have their own “mana Māori tuku iho” – “Māori authority that has been handed down.” In addition, our courses have international integrity (mana) and are taught in New Zealand, Australia, and Hawai’i, USA and as far away as Japan. Also, my own M.A (hons.) and Ph.D., which I received from the University of Auckland, were not accredited by the NZQA. Despite this, university qualifications are considered as having more academic “mana” than qualifications accredited by the NZQA.

So, who needs to rely on NZQA accreditation to gain a qualification in Te Reo? Te Reo Māori was spoken by our people long before the NZQA came along to give us authority to teach our own Te Reo courses. There is a Māori proverb coined by the late Tony Waho, who was an expert in Te Reo revitalisation: “He mana anō tō te Reo” – “The Māori language has its own authority.”

Kia kaha te reo – Stop relying on NZQA accredited courses in Te Reo planning.

This is mistake # 5 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans – Relying on NZQA Accredited Te Reo Courses.

Mistake # 6: Government Agencies Refuse to Pay Te Reo Course Fees for their Staff

On several occasions while tutoring Te Reo within government departments, I was asked by several disgruntled Māori employees: “Why should I have to pay to learn Te Reo when it was the Government who stole my language from me?” My reply to them was: “If you believe that it was the government’s fault for taking away your language then why won’t your employer, who is the Government, pay your course fee?” They did not know how to answer to my question. So, in 2019, I decided to take this issue to the senior management team, who at the time were developing a Te Reo Plan. I asked the same question to several of the managers: “Why is the Ministry not willing to pay the course fees of your staff to study Te Reo?” The responses of the senior managers were interesting. Some managers said that they were too far down in the food chain to make that decision. Some said they had to talk to their regional manager first, who then had to talk to their national manager. Other managers said that the request had to be approved by the Head Office in Wellington because it was a budgetary issue. So, after not receiving a proper response to my question, for two years, I decided to leave the issue for the employees themselves to sort out with their employer.

Although my question above remains unanswered, to this day, I agree with the question raised above by the employee because it was due to government policies, like the Native Schools Act 1869, and other such policies, that led to the decline in Te Reo. In my humble view, it is only right, (tika, pono) that high level management in government agencies acknowledge this historical fact. The employee issue raised above can be easily settled by government agencies agreeing to pay for their employees’ Te Reo course fees. There is a Māori proverb which might be useful in this situation: “Utua te kino ki te pai!” – “Return bad deeds with virtuous deeds.” I say to those disgruntled employees – Your language may have been lost due to government policies, but now your employer (the government) may help you regain Te Reo by paying for your course fees.

Kia kaha te reo! Start paying the course fees of your staff who want to study Te Reo.

This is mistake # 6 that Government agencies make when developing Te Reo plans – Government Agencies Refuse to Pay Te Reo Course Fees for their Staff.

The Problem and the Solution – Te Mate me te Rongoā

The main crux of this article is: “Do you want to implement an effective Te Reo plan in your own organisation, but don’t know how.” To help answer this question, I explained the six problems that government agencies may encounter when developing a Te Reo Plan. I then offered six practical solutions to these problems. This advice will hopefully explain how to overcome the issues and problems you may encounter when you are developing strategies, plans or policies to revitalise Te Reo in your own organisations.

The central question raised here is: “Do you want to know the most effective way of learning Te Reo?” The solution to this problem is provided through our Reo Ora courses which have a progressive and well-developed structure, a carefully considered curriculum and a tried and proven methodology. If you ask our learners, they will tell you, in their own words, that Reo Ora is the best course they have ever done. So, to answer the question above, the most effective way of learning Te Reo is to enrol your staff in our Certificate and Diploma courses in Te Reo. There are four distinct levels of our programme:

Certificate in Te Reo – Ko Te Pū (Beginners – Level One) – 100% online course (12-month subscription to our fully automated APP), six weekly On-Demand lectures with Live Tutorial Chatroom and E-books.

Certificate in Te Reo – Ko Te Weu (Lower Intermediate – Level 2) – 100% online course (12-month subscription to our fully automated APP), six weekly On-Demand lectures with Live Tutorial Chatroom and E-books.

Diploma in Te Reo – Ko Te More (Upper Intermediate – Level 3) – 100% online course (12-month subscription to our fully automated APP) and E-books.

Diploma in Te Reo – Ko Te Aka (Advanced – Level 4) – 100% online course (12-month subscription to our fully automated APP) and E-books.

In developing your organisational Te Reo plans, you can avoid the six mistakes discussed in this article by checking out our comprehensive range of interactive, state-of-the-art online courses and resources that are available at Ko tēnei te karanga ki a koutou! This is our call to action to you! Enrol now with Reo Ora, the world’s most popular Online Te Reo courses – The Certificate in Te Reo (Levels 1 and 2) and The Diploma in Te Reo (Levels 3 and 4). For information packs about our courses, please email: [email protected] .

Nāku noa nei

Nā Dr. Rāpata Wiri

Kaihautū Mātauranga

Reo Ora Ltd.