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Post date: Friday, 28 October 2022

What motivates people to become pou reo in their schools?

English-medium schools need to strategically plan for how they will grow te reo Māori inside and outside of the classroom. Pou reo – people who actively support reo Māori teaching and learning in schools – are the ‘doers’ who give life to these plans.  

In our latest report, He reo ka tipu i ngā kura: Growing te reo Māori in English-medium schools, we present findings from interviews with 40 pou reo across 10 primary schools, each at a different stage in their journey to grow te reo Māori.  

Our full report shares stories of how pou reo were enacting good practices to support reo Māori in schools, and also provides insights into some of the challenges these pou reo were navigating. But who are these pou reo?  

Who can be a pou reo?  

Anyone who is actively supporting reo Māori teaching and learning in a school can be a pou reo. In our study, we asked people who identified themselves as pou reo to participate in interviews. They included teachers, kaiako, kaiāwhina, school leaders, and whānau members. 

Most of the pou reo we interviewed were kaiako, and almost three-quarters were female. Pou reo had varying levels of proficiency in te reo Māori and pou reo Māori generally rated themselves as more proficient in te reo Māori than their non-Māori counterparts. 

What motivates people to become pou reo? 

In He reo ka tipu i ngā kura, we wanted to explore the impact that identity has on how pou reo see their roles, and their motivations to grow te reo Māori. We interviewed 20 pou reo Māori, and 20 non-Māori pou reo. All shared a commitment to revitalising te reo Māori, but there were some interesting and important differences related to identity.  

For pou reo Māori, whakapapa and te reo Māori are integral to who they are, which makes their work to revitalise te reo Māori personal, collective, intergenerational and inclusive of tamariki, whānau and hapori. Pou reo Māori were also more likely than non-Māori pou reo to be critically aware of the impacts of colonisation on te reo Māori.  

"Definitely, [being Māori makes a difference] because it is just who you are. You have got a Māori lens already." (Tumuaki, Māori, School A) 

For some non-Māori pou reo, Te Tiriti o Waitangi played a formative role in their work. For them, a commitment to honouring Te Tiriti both motivated them to become pou reo, and helped them know when to step back and acknowledge that Māori must lead. Some non-Māori pou reo were motivated by formal requirements to teach te reo Māori. 

"My role is more as an enabler, I’m not an expert. It’s [being] a door opener. It’s [being] a space giver." (Teacher, non-Māori, School H)

All non-Māori pou reo were committed to strengthening the provision of reo Māori learning opportunities. However, some were still working out how to position themselves as non-Māori who support reo Māori growth in schools. 

Challenges a pou reo may experience

The role of a pou reo is not without challenges. As He reo ka tipu i ngā kura points out, there are people in schools and communities who do not understand the value of te reo Māori and who may be resistant to raising the profile of the language in schools. We have developed a set of reflective questions to help pou reo think through how they might respond to these challenges.  

Most of the pou reo in the study were second language learners. Within both groups of pou reo there were people who expressed feelings of whakamā or discomfort about their level of proficiency in te reo Māori. Despite this, pou reo were committed to pushing through their discomfort because of their aspirations for tamariki to know who they are, to be proud of their whakapapa, and to value, respect and use te reo Māori.  

Pou reo are better able to do their jobs effectively when they have support from their school, and particularly from their school’s leaders. By having a clear understanding of what motivates people to become pou reo, we hope that schools can encourage and support more people to step up and take on this important role. 

He reo ka tipu i ngā kura: Growing te reo Māori in English-medium schools is a findings report that explores the role of identity in motivating pou reo, and illustrates how schools are enacting good practices for growing reo Māori capability in English-medium schools. Designed for educators, leaders, whānau, and communities across Aotearoa, the full report is available here and the literature review is available here.  


This article forms part of our growing body of research on revitalising te reo Māori in education - why not check out the rest of our research? 


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