Our daily check with the Beehive website draw a blank. Nothing has been announced there since the PM announced the offender responsible for the Christchurch terror attack on 15 March 2019 has been designated as a terrorist entity.
But elsewhere in our monitoring of the political scene we found the Māori Party is hot and bothered about goings-on in the education domain . The item was headlined Racism In Education, Second Pandemic In Aotearoa
The Māori Party candidate for Te Tai Tonga, Tākuta Ferris, and Waiariki candidate, Rawiri Waititi, said in the statement they “believe institutional racism within the education system is holding this nation back”.
Ferris raged that:
“This week has highlighted the second pandemic taking hold of this nation, the pandemic of racism in Aotearoa – but particularly in the Aotearoa education system.”
Oh dear. What shameful acts have given risen to this?
- The University of Otago is considering imposing caps on the amount of Māori and Pacifica admissions to its Medical school. How dare they! Restricting non-Maori admissions is one thing; capping Maori students is another.
- The Ministry of Education has been presented with a 13-page letter outlining concerns of racist behaviour towards staff. Throughout the country? No – this is confined (assuming there is any validity to the claims) to Waikato University, which happens to be the subject of the third concern …
- There are plans to abolish the faculty of Māori studies at Waikato University. Māori studies are not being abolished, it should be noted. This is a matter of restructuring.
The Māori Party is tapping into a sentiment generated by a group of Māori academics who are reported to be on the brink of laying a Treaty claim against Waikato University.
According to One News, six academics have written a 13-page letter to the Ministry of Education.
They alleged “structural and ‘casual racism’” within the university and make other claims, such as lower pay for Māori staff, the constructive dismissal of talent across the university and no indigenous advancement plan.
The One News report says relations started souring two years ago when the university proposed a restructure to turn its Māori and Indigenous Studies from a faculty into a school. This would place the faculty under Social Sciences.
University bosses contend the changes aimed to make academic unit sizes more uniform.
So what does the Māori Party have to say about this?
Rawiri Waititi said:
“Waikato Universities proposal to move Māori Studies under Social Science is a breach of equity in this country. Under Te Tiriti, we deserve to have our own standalone faculty, equity in staffing, senior management and resourcing”.
We read through our copy of the treaty this afternoon and no, we can’t find any mention of education resourcing.
But Waititi says:
“The prevalence of racism in education is not only limited to the tertiary level, but also in how education is funded, with a $11.3-million dollar fund recently injected into a private Green school, when Kura Kaupapa in Ōtautahi have been waiting since the Christchurch earthquake” said Ferris.
Ah. Now Waititi is banging on about the $11.3 million that has become the subject of an abject apology by Green Party co-leader James Shaw, because he knows his announcing this funding was a political blunder.
But the lulu among the Māori Party grievances is its outrage at the idea of a cap on the amount of Māori and Pacifica admissions to medical school.
Ferris said this
“ … would be disastrous for a health system that already struggles to cater for Māori. Māori entry pathways at the University of Otago were supposed to promote more Māori in the health workforce – now it seems like Otago are backtracking on their word.”
At issue here (Stuff explains) is a report on a scheme designed to increase the number of Maori and Pasifika students at Otago Medical School which suggests a cap on special entry students.
Does this justify outraged cries of racism?
Point of Order suggests that – before you answer – you check back to a Stuff investigation in May which showed so many special entry students (Māori, Pasifika, rural, socio-economic) were being admitted that only 40 per cent of first year places were left over for general entry students.
Special entry categories are not capped.
“The competition for general entry places had become so fierce that A+ grades and a top performance in other tests were not good enough to guarantee entry, the investigation showed.”
A discussion document presented to the University of Otago’s Medical Admissions Committee this month suggests limiting the number of Māori special entry to 56 students and Pasifika to 20.
Stuff’s report today says of this year’s intake of 282 students, 65 were Māori and 25 were Pasifika. Most came from a cohort of students who completed a first year health sciences intermediate year. Others were accepted through the graduate route or alternative entry door.
For this year’s intake, the medical school had 202 places available for first-year students entering from its intermediate year. Of the 202 places, 120 were given to those entering under special categories – 58 were Māori, 20 were Pasifika, one Māori/Pasifika, 29 were rural category, 11 were low socio-economic category and one under a new refugee category. That left 82 general entry places.
The university’s pro-vice-chancellor, professor Paul Brunton, said the report proposing a cap began an “exploration” of medical admissions and was not intended for public release.
It’s out now anyway. So let’s have a good look at its proposals and the balance between merit and diversity before we get too impassioned.