Second languages bill set to be killed off - National blasts Labour

Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 4 Jun 2021, 9:41AM
National education spokesman Paul Goldsmith. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
National education spokesman Paul Goldsmith. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

Second languages bill set to be killed off - National blasts Labour

Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 4 Jun 2021, 9:41AM

A bill that would have required all primary and intermediate schools to offer second language tuition from among 10 priority languages has been torpedoed by Labour despite the party originally supporting the bill.

The Labour-led parliamentary committee examining the bill, originally proposed by ex National MP Nikki Kaye, oppose making 10 languages a priority. It says that te reo Māori and sign language should be the priority languages because they are both official languages.

And it said Cook Island Māori, Niuean and Tokelauan and other Pacific languages needed to be valued and taught.

National says it is a narrow-minded and Labour is too focused on Māori - Pākehā relations.

The education select committee report, chaired by Labour MP Marja Lubeck, said it would be more appropriate to develop a "national languages strategy instead of passing this bill because that would allow for more comprehensive consultation to take place".

That means that unless Labour has a change of heart, it will vote down the bill at its second reading.

The Ministry of Education told the committee that passing the bill without full consultation with Māori would be a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Former Education Minister Nikki Kaye who introduced the second language bill. (Photo / Mark Mitchel)l

It suggested that all schools have te reo as the primary priority language before being able to choose an additional priority language but the committee's report does not address that as a solution.

Officials estimated the annual cost of funding second language tuition ranged between $42 million for one-hour tuition each week to $234 million a year for five hours of tuition a week.

National says there were more than 300 submissions on the bill and the overwhelming majority supported it.

The bill was originally introduced by Kaye, a former National education minister, when in Opposition and was supported by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Labour as well as the Greens and Act.

The bill says every primary and intermediate school had to choose at least one priority language from among 10 nominated by the Education Minister in the Gazette, and after consultation with the school community.

National education spokesman Paul Goldsmith took over the bill and said he was disappointed that the committee had recommended the bill not proceed.

"The bill doesn't take away the existing requirement of schools to have best endeavours to ensure that education in te reo and tikanga Māori is available.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins. (Photo / Mark Mitchel)

"But making it available doesn't mean it has to be compulsory for everybody to choose it to be a language they go into in depth. That's the difference."

It was right that everyone in school has some engagement with te reo Māori but "taking the next step to really focusing on it as the second language, we fundamentally come from the point of view that you should have a choice".

That could Samoan, Mandarin, Urdu or Punjabi.

"There is universal agreement that learning a second language at a young age is helpful to a whole range of educational and learning neurological pathways," said Goldsmith.

"It has been torpedoed from a very narrow-minded view of the world which is to say there is only one language you can learn and it has to be te reo."

Kaye believed that the bill would lead to a big uptake in te reo learning because schools were not limited to one language to prioritise and that the bill would ensure universal access to te reo learning.

Marja Lubeck, Labour list MP, chairs the education select committee that says the second language bill should not proceed. (Photo / Supplied)

Goldsmith believed the reason for Labour's change was there was what he called "a much more vocal and determined Maori caucus" this term and the Government was in danger of becoming too introspective.

"New Zealand is at its best when it is looking out and engaging with the world, recognising what is special about New Zealand but prepared to be open.

"The sense I get from a lot of what is happening in the education space at the moment is a very determined inward-looking agenda around the relationship between Māori and Pākehā.

"That is important but you can overcook it."

Goldsmith dismissed the Ministry of Education's view that passing the law would be a breach of the treaty.

"The advice seems to be ushering in a new constitutional understanding. It is saying that a member's bill, introduced into Parliament in the normal way, for public submission including, of course, from Māori groups, thought the select committee process for months in the normal way, and then pass by Parliament could be a breach of the Treaty because of inadequate consultation.

"We reject that assertion."

The primary teachers' union, the NZEI, opposed the bill saying that only once has the revitalisation of te reo Māori happened should the teaching of additional languages be welcomed.

The select committee recommended a national languages strategy that:

  • is developed in consultation with parents, teachers, schools and communities;
    • supports the immediate use of existing programme;
    • provides for the training and development of the workforce;
    • sets out what resources would need to be created and made available to teachers;
    • sets expectations about what curriculum areas would be covered;
    • fits into the wider aims of the curriculum;
    • allows for schools to tailor the learning to their students' needs.

The education and workforce select committee comprises the following MPs: Labour MPs Marja Lubeck, Camilla Belich, Jo Luxton, Ibrahim Omer, Angela Roberts, and temporary member Jamie Strange who participated in the deliberations; Green MP Jan Logie; National MPs Paul Goldsmith and Erica Stanford; and Act MP Chris Baillie.