Te Wananga o Aotearoa

Part of my time working in New Zealand has been taken up working for the Te Wananga o Aotearoa (University of new Zealand). This is a Maori focused University and my role has been as a consultant to support the development of a new online degree programme – �Bachelor of Teaching in Early Childhood Education�.

There is a large commitment by the Ministry of Education in NZ to the development of better early childhood education by developing the expertise of teachers working in this sector. As well as this, there is an ongoing �campaign� to protect and develop the Maori culture and early childhood experiences are see of central importance to this. As a result, Te Wananga o Aotearoa University took the decision to develop a degree programme and enlisted Rita Walker (Curriculum Writer), who is an expert in early childhood education rooted in the Maori culture. Ultralab and my role in this was to offer the lessons we have learned in working in online environments and in particular our experience of developing the Ultraversity degree project.

Offering our Ultraversity experiences, and by this I mean the Ultraversity researchers and Learning facilitators has been a tremendously rewarding experience as it means that Ultraversity is making a change in Higher Education not just in England but in other countries also. The stories and examples of the types of work that Ultraversity student (akonga) researchers undertake and the impact that they have in their workplace (including the struggles!) make a huge impression and indeed enthuse those who I talk to and make them want to take some of the good ideas that we are developing and apply them to their own particular culture and context.

From my perspective, many of the ideas we are developing in Ultraversity map easily into the underpinning Maori cultures philosophy, beliefs, and values. For example, the importance of learning together in communities, the principle of everyone�s voice and thoughts being of value, the importance of learning through play, and the power of stories as a means of communication and learning.

Care needs to be taken however in making assumptions as the cultures are very different. One example being the practice of having a totally online degree would not be acceptable as meeting face-to-face (the hui) is a significant and important aspect of the Maori culture which values a more communal way of life.

Clearly in the UK, the industrial revolution changed things irrevocably. And more recently polititions like Margaret Thatcher, who once said �There is no such thing as society:there are individual men and women, and there are families�, have also contributed to fragmentation and ‘individualisation’ of society. Personally I disagree with her statement and believe it is a view that has caused much harm. I subscribe to the view that society is important and hope that we can develop our communities in a way that values more than just the individual and their immediate family.

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