Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Culturally Sensitive & Indigenous Learners

The Otago Polytechnic has a very good relationship with both local and international students. They are very good at tutor training with treaty workshops and making tutors aware of being culturally sensitive and catering to individual needs and learning styles.
This is underpinned by the Māori Strategic Framework by Mason Durie’s (2003) vision for Māori Education:
“To live as a Māori- In short being enabled to live as a Māori imposes some responsibilities among the education system to contribute towards the realisation of that goal.
To actively participate as a citizen of the world -There is a wide Māori expectation that education should open doors to technology, that economy, the arts and sciences, to understanding others and making a contribution to a greater good. This does not contradict the goal of being able to live as a Māori. It simply recognises that Māori children will live in a variety of situations and should be able to move from one to another with relative ease.
To enjoy good health and a high standard of living- Education should be able to make a major if not the major contribution to health and wellbeing and to a decent standard of living. Education achievements correlate directly with employment, income levels.....”(Durie, 2003).
I enjoyed Kate Timmens-Deans’ explanation on indigenous learners and her four main orientations that support the learner and there ability to learn;

Spiritual –Do I believe I can do this?
Physical- Do I have the resources to do this course?
Social/Family- Do I have the support of my family?
Cognition- Can I cope with the demands?

These are important factors that can assist all of our students learning. We should endeavour to find assistance to give everyone an equal opportunity to study and learn for their future benefit and make their time here at Otago Polytechnic a pleasant experience.
Carpentry and the construction industry has a very unique culture were it is largely involving creative people working together to build and re-build houses, factory’s, offices, towns and even cities. It is a very satisfying career which can take you where ever you want to go. For a project to be ready on time and on budget (which does happen occasionally) many people have had impute to make it happen and can dually be proud of there combined achievements.


  1. Kevin this is a very good description of some of the key themes associated with indigenous learners. It is not clear whether indigenous learners participate in many of your courses or whether more can be done to attract Maori learners to study carpentry.

    There is no doubt carpentry is a creative culture. Another area you might want to consider is the predominance of male students in carpentry courses. Is this due to the culture surrounding the industry - "carpentry is a bloke thing" - preventing women from participating or are there other factors I wonder? What do you believe could be done to attract more women to the industry?

  2. These are very interesting points you make Bronwyn. Take the Māori learners for example, recently I had the pleasure of attending a conference in Auckland at Unitech’s new marae we received a full Māori welcome. While the occasion was great to participate in, the building itself held real mana and the history and principles attached where impressive. For example, the building’s orientation to the sun, excess wood chips and shavings where retuned to the forest floor where they came from, honouring ancestors and children of today. This clearly identified the talent and potential within our Māori culture.

    Our Polytechnic has a good Māori strategic framework consultation document and our carpentry department’s student information handbook states, “Assessment in Te Reo Māori, Students may request to be assessed in Te Reo Māori. Provided written request and received by the programme manager prior to the commencement of the programme, every endeavour will be made to meet such request”.

    Recent statistics show that on average, between 15%-17% of students that enter carpentry are identified as Māori. I am not sure how this compares with other departments but Māori students form a valuable part of our course.

    When it comes to female students we would probably see one every two or three years. While we would welcome more into the course I guess they would need to make a conscious decision to be there as students that do the best are driven and passionate about building. Traditionally not many women are found on building sites although many are in architecture and quantity surveying. One strategy I thought of was to have one of the female students who has completed this course go around female high schools to share her experiences and actively encourage other students to think of this career as not only a male occupation.