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Social Behaviour and Classroom Learning: Polynesian and Pakeha

David Thomas

Maori and other Polynesian children underachieve in the New Zealand school system and educators have often suggested that more research is needed to find out why. More specifically, what skills do Maori and other Polynesian children lack that results in their lower educational achievement? The results of recent research on social behaviour, however, seem to point to a quite different problem: the 'traditional' social organisation of New Zealand classrooms leads to Pakeha children refusing to change their ways even when it could be for the best, and it systematically disadvantages Maori and other Polynesian children. A description of the studies on social behaviour will give some background to this claim; the implications can then be explored; and finally we can make some suggestions how teachers might use some of these results in their classrooms.

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