Teacher quality and the preparation of quality teachers have been at the center of debates and discussions related to improving educational outcomes among diverse student populations across the world. In New Zealand, the education system emphasizes high-quality, bicultural practice among teachers through regulations and curriculum that call for adequate teacher preparation on bicultural pedagogical practice. This article sheds light on the gap between the policy goals and the reality of primarily monolingual and monocultural paradigms within the school system; it also brings forth the need to promote culturally inclusive understanding, knowledge, and skills among preservice teachers. The issues discussed in this article address concerns about education structures and processes that deny equity of educational opportunities to linguistically and culturally marginal student populations.
This article reflects our life experiences, positions, and perspectives as Maori women who now teach in early childhood teacher education programmes. We are particularly interested in the attitudes and beliefs in relation to Maori language, culture, values, and world view that students hold on entering tertiary study and how this might influence their ongoing development toward biculturalism. O'Loughlin (2009) discusses how difficult negotiating the confines of a school system can be:Schools are the chief ideological instruments of governments, totalitarian or otherwise, and are therefore likely to be held on a tight ideological leash. Teachers are part of the establishment, and any subversive leanings that they might have are typically disciplined through extensive mandated curricular requirements and onerous regulation that appears to be increasingly global in reach. (p. 5)
We have been challenged by the system that is in place in Aotearoa / New Zealand. We also recognise our own subversive tendencies to provoke change for a more ethical and equitable education system in respect to the historical knowledge and place within the system of the tangata whenua (indigenous peoples).
When student teachers in Aotearoa/New Zealand graduate from their preservice education, they are expected, under Graduating Teacher Standards (New Zealand Teachers Council, 2007) and Registered Teacher Criteria (New Zealand Teachers Council, 2009), to have met particular teaching standards, among which are a nuanced understanding of and a commitment to te ao Maori (the Maori world) in relation to their anticipated teaching practice. More specifically, these criteria require that teachers "work effectively" biculturally, that they practise and develop relevant te reo Maori me nga tikanga-aiwi (principals, protocols, and practices of the iwi [Maori tribes] in the local community), and that they "specifically and effectively" attend to the education aspirations of Maori students and families (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2009, pp. 12-14).
In line with these requirements, a component of the initial teacher education offered at Canterbury University (the first author's institution) and at Rangi Rum Early Childhood College (the second author's institution) requires students to learn about Maori ways of doing and being. Learning outcomes in respective courses include students demonstrating appropriate application of Maori language and tikanga (customs and traditions) in early childhood settings and that they promote inclusive practice. Therefore, each year students are required to pursue...