Maori kids to learn skills of future leaders | KPMG | NZ

Maori kids to learn skills of future leaders

Maori kids to learn skills of future leaders

Maori children need to avoid the trap of being educated for the attractive jobs of today that might not be available tomorrow.

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That's one of the conclusions of Maui Rau, the new report by consultancy firm KPMG. Education is a persistent theme of the report, as it attempts to chart a fresh course for Maori businesses and organisations, reflecting the sentiments and suggestions from a series of hui held across the country with Māori leaders in January and February.

The report, by authors Joe Hanita and Riria Te Kanawa of KPMG and Jamie Rihia of ASB, says: "Contributors expressed concern around education in particular, and the extent to which it fosters creativity, curiosity and self-discovery."

That was backed up by Ariana Paul and her husband, Tama Potaka, who had concerns about their children's education three years ago. 

"We could see the education system wasn't getting our kids interested and hooked, particularly around the areas of science and physics and engineering," Paul recalls.Talks with family, friends and other parents revealed others shared their concerns; Paul's research led her to Young Engineers, an international suite of education programmes focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Young Engineers is taught in 13 countries and Paul secured the rights to roll it out in New Zealand. With business partner Jeanne Kerr, she also set up a second company, Squiggle, to run school holiday programmes as another way to engage children in educational activities that are fun and interactive.

Paul believes Young Engineers and Squiggle have the potential to have a major impact on the statistics for Maori education, which lag behind those of the general population.Maui Rau's authors say achieving Maori aspirations "will require courageous approaches to improving educational attainment" and may involve looking further than the existing school system.

The traditional approach has been to ask children what they wanted to do and then help them to acquire technical skills to give them the best chance of success.

"Now those technical skills are becoming obsolete due to the impact of automation, robotics and digital technology. Many of today's careers will disappear ... and many new roles will emerge.

"Our responsibility is to ensure we foster characteristics and soft skills in our tamariki (children) that help them to participate fully in a society where change is the only constant. Simply put, we need to avoid falling into the trap of educating our children for the attractive jobs of today that might well disappear tomorrow."

Paul agrees: "All young kids start out with naturally inquisitive minds. But if they become institutionalised by the school system - and this is especially the case with Maori kids - those enquiring minds can be dimmed very quickly."

In contrast, STEM programmes encourage innovative learning and problem-solving based on real-world applications. According to Paul, those are precisely the skills future leaders will need.

"Research shows we will need more innovative thinkers and people in the science field. We're going to need these kids to drive our economy forward, so we have to start teaching those skills at a young age."

Paul and Kerr's strategy is to use the Squiggle programme as a vehicle to take Young Engineers to their communities. Both businesses are growing steadily; Paul says she and Kerr are now able to relinquish their initial, highly hands-on approach to concentrate on strategic issues.

One is nurturing links between Young Engineers programmes and Maori business. She says there are numerous places for Maori businesses to seek new opportunities, across different sectors, within other iwi, and through global networks.

"For instance, if I've got this programme for Young Engineers - and you're having a problem getting young people into your sector - let's talk about working together to develop young farmers or environmentalists or whatever it may be."

"We should also be open and brave enough to explore how we can work with other iwi. A classic example is Ngai Tahu working with Tainui - you would never have thought that would happen 10 or 20 years ago.

Paul says aspiring Maori businesses must think globally and connect with those living around the world - a thought echoed by the report's authors.

"As the Maori Diaspora continues," the report says, "cities, both within Aotearoa and overseas, are likely to be hotbeds of additional tribal talent. Engaging with this group to drive positive tribal outcomes is something to consider seriously and plan for now."

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