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Crown failed kohanga reo says tribunal

The Kohanga Reo Trust Board says its resistance to decades of attempted mainstreaming by the Education Ministry has been vindicated in a historic report which found the Government has failed its movement.

The Waitangi Tribunal report released this morning found the Government breached the Treaty by not supporting the Maori-language immersion early childhood centres.

The Tribunal says the movement, established in the 1980s to help save Te Reo, suffered because of government policy and funding decisions.

It recommended the Government apologise to the trust, promote attendance, and create a policy and funding regime specifically for kohanga reo. It also wants an interim independent adviser appointed to oversee its recommendations.

The trust's spokeswoman Tina Olsen-Ratana said the report was historic because never before had the tribunal asked for an advisor to implement its recommendations and report directly to the prime minister.

Trustee Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi said after decades of mainstreaming by the Crown, the report proved what the movement knew all along.

"Kohanga reo is driven by whanau, supported by iwi, hapu and a number of significant Maori organisations. Kohanga Reo is inexplicably linked to the revitalisation of Te Reo Maori.

The trust's lawyer, Mai Chen, said the tribunal recognised the unique role kohanga reo played and that early childhood education was not "one size fits all".

"What they want to achieve is language preservation, and kohanga reo are really successful with that. The tribunal recognises the Crown shouldn't mess with that."

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the Government would consider the report and assess it alongside other work being done on her ministry's Maori language plan.

More than $1 billion was directed toward the movement over the past 20 years, she said. A further $19.1m over the next four years had been set aside for Maori early childhood education.

The tribunal also found falling kohanga reo enrolments were related to declining numbers of children being able to speak Te Reo. Attending Maori-language schools for six to eight years was necessary to achieve bilingualism and the optimal age for attendance was the first 10 years of a child's life.

More than 9000 children were currently enrolled in kohanga reo, down from a peak in 1993 of about 14,000 students.

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- The Dominion Post

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