Tomy Ward Education
Education for Critical Times
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Sunday, 05 May 2013 14:08

Bicultural Praxis

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For twenty years I worked as a Senior lecturer at the School of Architecture at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. During that time I was mainly involved in initiating, developing and directing the Community Design Studio - an undergraduate design course devoted to the design and implementation of projects in the real world for clients who could not otherwise afford professional design fees. This meant that over the twenty years of my tenure, I worked mostly in the Maori community - the indigenous community of New Zealand. When I first arrived in New Zealand, Maori were embarking upon a social, political and educational renaissance - trying th save their culture and language through increasingly vocal demands for forms of independence - tino rangatiratanga. Since then they have made much headway and now(in 2009) have a significant voice in Government, their own kaupapa Maori education system and many independent Health providers and authorities. Many long-standing grievances have been addressed, Treaty settlements have been made, and previously racist and oppressive legislation is being reviewed. It was not always so. In those early days, Maori demands for recognition of their status as tangata whenua (First peoples or "people of the land") were submerged under a dominant culture drive towards multiculturalism.In the initial stages of their renaissance, Maori called instead or a policy of Biculturalism - for a working political arrangement between the two original Treaty partners, Maori and Pakeha (white European settlers). The drive for a policy of biculturalism helped to focus public awareness on the role and status of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed between the British Crown and Maori chiefs in 1840. The Treaty promised to preserve and uphold Maori culture, language and other cultural treasures.

Coming as I did myself as a new settler from Britain, and with a strong anti-colonial predisposition, I immersed myself in the cultural politics of biculturalism - being one of the founder members of the first University of Auckland Biculturalism group. I also assisted my Maori students in the formation of the first Maori student support group - Whaihanga - which at that time embraced students from Architecture, Planning and Engineering. Many of the projects completed in the Community Design studio centred around Whaihanga, including the inaugural Whaihanga project, the design of the Hoani Waititi Whare Kura (New Zealand's first Kaupapa Maori secondary school). During my years of working with Maori students I began to understand some of the issues that were important to them in their education, and some of the pedagogical strategies that were successful in helping them to succeed.


In 1993, I committed some of these learnings to paper, in an article presented to the Higher Education Research Office (HERO) at the University. That paper, Making it work: Bicultural Implementation, is presented here. Many of the principles that I articulated fifteen years ago are still relevant today, particularly in the context of educating members of indigenous communities.


To download the PDF click here .


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