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Creating an inclusive learning environment

Students are more likely to achieve in education for sustainability when they see their concerns and ideas taken seriously and their cultures valued in subject content and learning contexts.

By recognising that students have a cultural identity and inviting them to share their cultural knowledge in learning contexts, teachers promote ako, a teaching–learning relationship in which the teacher also learns from the student.

For the teacher, ako involves acknowledging, respecting, and valuing who students are and where they come from and, through deliberate and reflective practice, building on what they bring with them to the learning setting. People of all cultures have skills, knowledge, and qualities that can be built on.

Principles of a kaupapa Māori pedagogy

New Zealand’s foundations are bicultural, so tikanga Māori should be at the centre of learning and all teaching should be informed by the kaupapa Māori principles identified by Russell Bishop and Ted Glynn 1

Tino rangitiratanga – the right to determine one’s own destiny. Parents and children are involved in decision-making processes.

Taonga tuku iho – the treasures from the ancestors, providing a set of principles by which to live our lives.

Ako – a mutual teaching and learning relationship in which the educator is also learning from the student.

Kia piki ake i ngā raruraru o te kāinga – reaches into Māori homes and brings parents and families into the activities of the school.

Whānau – the development of connections with the community to support learning.

Kaupapa – acknowledging and valuing the language and culture in the classroom and chosen contexts.

Read more about Te Kotahitanga

Read more about the Effective Teaching Profile

Some suggested contexts and approaches

  • Visiting a marae to learn from kaumatua about Māori views of land ownership/kaitiakitanga;
  • Field trips to sites that are of special significance to Māori;
  • Collaborating with a local marae on a conservation or recycling project;
  • Case study of a Pacific island (for example, Tuvalu) that is threatened by rising sea levels or global warming.
  • Case studies of lost or endangered species of particular significance to Māori;
  • Inviting individual (or groups of) students to chose a context that has particular cultural significance for them;
  • Inviting kaumatua to participate in a hui on a local or topical issue such as mining on conservation estate or declining populations of īnanga or kai moana;
  • Case study of a Māori-owned eco-tourism or cultural tourism venture;
  • Case study of pollution (or loss) as it affects a part of the world from which one or more of your students come. For example ocean plastic (Pacific Islands), mining effluents (Papua New Guinea or Africa), or pesticides (India or Bangladesh).
  • Meetings with family and whanau to outline programmes of work and discuss ways in which they might support students in their learning;
  • Upskilling teachers in terms of pronunciation and familiarity with the concepts that underlie Māoritanga;
  • Case study of an economic or cultural initiative for sustainability in a part of the world from which one of more of your students come.


  1. Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education (1999). The Dunmore Press, Palmerston North.

Last updated June 11, 2018