INDEPENDENT NEWS

Maori and Pacific Island focus in early education

Published: Tue 12 Oct 1999 09:36 AM
Lifting the number of Maori and Pacific children receiving quality early childhood education would have ongoing benefits for Maori and Pacific achievement levels throughout the education system, Labour education spokesperson Trevor Mallard said today.
Releasing Labour's early childhood education policy Trevor Mallard said the gap between Maori and Pacific, and other children participating in early childhood education was growing and that had to change.
"In 1991 the rate of non-Maori participation for four year olds was 97%, compared with only 75% of Maori four year olds. By 1997 the gap had widened even further, with Maori participation dropping to 71% for four year olds. Participation by Pacific children is even less. Only 60% of Pacific four year olds are in licensed early childhood centres.
"I regard improving those statistics as a top priority for Labour in government.
"We will support a range of projects to achieve this including recruiting more Maori and Pacific teachers to early childhood teaching, in-service professional development to assist teachers in their understanding of tikanga Maori and Pacific cultures, and projects to enhance the links between home and early childhood education centres.
"Labour is also planning equity funding to be introduced to the early childhood sector to target centres which cater for disadvantaged communities, and some of that funding will be specifically directed to programmes directly relating to improving Maori and Pacific attendance.
"There will also be funding to assist with establishment costs of early childhood centres in areas where there is a clear need. The cost of setting up a quality early childhood centre is a barrier that many communities simply cannot overcome.
"Support for kohanga reo will come in the form of development of Maori language resources, and increased funding for staff training. Labour will also review the role and operation of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust.
"Likewise, Labour will address the shortage of early childhood education resources in Pacific languages. There are now more than 150 Pacific language centres, however, many of them do not meet licensing requirements and therefore cannot access early childhood education funding. In the first 12 months in government, Labour will place an emphasis on assisting current unlicensed Pacific Island centres to become licensed," Trevor Mallard said.

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