Accepting low rates of Māori achievement in school is 'systemic racism' - Kelvin Davis

Kelvin Davis says when schools accept low achievement rates from its Māori students, without aspiring to better them, it shows there is “systemic racism” in the education system. 

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The Associate Education Minister says there’s subtle racism against Māori students when schools lack belief in their abilities. Source: 1 NEWS

The Associate Education Minister (Māori Education), speaking today about anti-racism school programme Te Hurihanganui, said “Māori deserve nothing worse” than achieving “at the highest levels in the world whatever they do”. 

But, Davis said among some teachers, there was an “acceptance” low Māori achievement was simply the way things were. 

Davis said accepting the status quo wasn’t good enough. 

It comes as the number of students leaving school with no qualification rose to 12 per cent in 2019 - up one percentage point from 2018, according to Ministry of Education figures. 

The figures showed that of the 7464 young people who had left without a qualification, nearly half, 3689, were Pākehā, and 3285 were Māori.

More than half of the group who had left school were boys. 

Davis said while schools didn’t see a lot of overt racism, this “lack of belief” in Māori students and what they could achieve because of their backgrounds was “systemic racism”.

“That overt stuff you can deal with. It’s that underlying quiet racism that’s really hard to address,” he said. 

“Educators need to be challenged on the results Māori children are experiencing in their classes.” 

He also called for the streaming of students based on their academic abilities to be removed because it “harmed Māori”.

Davis said he understood parents may be worried about streaming being removed. But, when he removed streaming from Kaitaia Intermediate School when he was principal,  “overnight it changed the tone of the school”.

When children who were considered “difficult” were spread out, it “eased the burden” on teachers and they benefited from being surrounded by model students, he said.