- Inequality in education is a key threat to prosperity for low-income and Māori communities, according to The Quest for Prosperity, a CA ANZ report.
- Group work at her school linking tribes, community and family motivated Munday and gave her a sense of belonging.
- Tough UK education reforms which have boosted technical study enrollments may offer NZ a model to follow.
Ever since age 12, Yonder Munday has earned a wage and combined her studies with an after-school job. “I was brought up very independent,” says the winner of the CA ANZ Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa Suzanne Spencer Scholarship.
“During the school holidays, me and my younger brother went down to Blenheim to work with my dad in the vineyards. We got paid the same amount as the adults and were responsible for our earnings.”
Now a 28-year-old mother of two, Munday believes that working alongside her contractor father and attending a Maori-value based high school helped to shape the person she is today.
“At school, my favourite subject was maths. I’ve always had a passion for numbers, with my Dad being in a business, and that got me thinking to become an accountant.”
But for many of her Māori and Pasifika peers, the future looks less bright. The main reason, revealed in The Quest for Prosperity, a CA ANZ report, is deteriorating education standards over the past decade, coupled with growing economic inequality in the community.
Related: CA ANZ report tackles the tough questions
Read the Quest for Prosperity which urges action on inequality, education, housing affordability and economic competitiveness in New Zealand.
Findings in the paper indicate that inequality falls heavier on less-educated sectors of society who are likely to be the first to lose their jobs as technology increasingly disrupts work. In part, this is because Māori and Pasifika communities have a less formal education than their European or Asian peers; they are more likely to leave school at 16 with lower grades.
Munday sees evidence of these trends in her low-income community in Flaxmere, Hastings. “Families and children don’t have a lot. You see children going to school barefoot, wearing no jackets on cold days and organisations providing breakfasts in the school.”
There are consistent trends, she says. “Children see how their parents have been brought up living on benefits and they get stuck in that frame. I’ve tried to pull friends and family [out of it], but they are so used to living their lives. It’s quite hard [to change].”
Munday’s experience at her high school, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, gave her an alternative lens to look at her culture.
I developed a sense of belonging and that’s where I started finding passion
“We did a lot of group work, a lot of travelling, and through whakawhānautanga, we learned how to establish relationships between Iwi (tribes), Hapu (sub-tribes), Hāpori (communities) and whānaunga (family and extended family),” she explains.
“Through this practical work I developed a sense of belonging and that’s where I started finding passion to help my community, my family, my tribe, who are brought up in that type of environment.”
So what are the solutions?
A case study from the UK in The Quest for Prosperity illustrates how tough traditional education reforms may offer New Zealand a model.
Between 2010 and 2015, the UK addressed a sharp decline in education by progressively increasing school leaving age from 16 – 18 and expanding alternative paths of education to include more vocational-based skills. Results have been impressive.
The percentage of secondary pupils enrolled in technical education has risen from 18 to 32 % in UK since 2007. In New Zealand it has fallen from 21 to 17% in the same period.
Munday believes that extending school leaving age could make a difference, as there’s “nothing for 16 to 18-year-olds to do, except have children”.
Related: Listen to a podcast by NZ community leader Dame Diane Robertson
Listen to the discussion on prosperity, homelessness and the role of data.Listen
But also it’s about making schools more practical, especially for Māori teenage boys who “learn better hands-on”.
While there is a broad uptake in social media among the younger generation who now have iPads in primary schools, what’s needed is more training for those aged 30-plus in technology, Munday believes.
Aside from education, there’s also a need for empowerment-raising initiatives.
“Maori and Pasifika do underestimate themselves. They have a lot of potential and traditional skills, yet they compare themselves to others, because there’s not the self-confidence there.”
It encourages me that I can rise to higher levels
For herself, receiving the scholarship was a huge achievement. “It was very meaningful, especially coming from my background. It encourages me that I can rise to higher levels.”
And while Yonder Munday believes education is important, she says: ”I reckon it also depends on the individuals themselves and family support.
I don’t think it matters what school you go to, what language, what culture you are, it really goes back to your upbringing, because that makes the person you are today.”