Early Years Research Centre

Project Director: Lesley Rameka, University of Waikato

Associate Investigators: Brenda Soutar, Tautāwhi Ltd; Vanessa Paki, Te Rito Maioha

Project Dates: 1 February 2020 to 31 March 2022

Partnerships: Funded by the Ministry of Education's Teaching and Learning Research Initiative


This research, funded by the Ministry of Education's Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, involved four phases of work over two years. The first phase (2020), Kohikohinga Pūrākau, will entail collecting narratives, from kaumatua (elders), Māori leaders, Māori ECE experts and leaders, on mana and how it can be enhanced through kaitiakitanga (guardianship). These will be shared with kaiako and whānau in Māori medium ECE services in the second phase (2020) - Taunaki Puna Reo. The Māori medium services will develop understandings and practices that demonstrate mana and kaitiakitanga, which will be shared with the three English medium ECE services in the third phase (2021), the Taunaki Auraki phase providing a powerful foundation for pedagogical understandings and practice. The fourth phase (2021), Whanaketanga Ariā, will involve the analysis of data from all phases of the research.

Through the project, a resource was developed for ECE teachers and kaiako: Te whakapūmautanga i te Mana.

To find out more about the project, see Te Whakapūmautia te mana: Enhancing Mana Through Kaitiakitanga.

What were the Aims of the Research?

The premise of this kaupapa Māori project is that mana (prestige, status, influence) is a fundamental element of wellbeing (Reedy, & Reedy, 2013). Through the project, we explored ways that ECE accords mokopuna opportunities to recognise mana and understand ways to accrue and attain mana through being kaitiaki (guardians) of themselves, others and their environment, thereby contributing to a collective sense of wellbeing. We will explore the centrality of mana and kaitiakitanga through developing evidence-based understandings, with associated strategies and exemplars of teaching practice.

Research Questions

  1. In what ways do/can mokopuna in ECE services enact mana and kaitiakitanga?
  2. What does the enactment of mana and kaitiakitanga look like for mokopuna, and for kaiako in ECE?
  3. What are the people, tools/artefacts, processes and practices that contribute to enhancing mana and kaitiakitanga for mokopuna

Why is this research important?

Wellbeing is fundamental to an individual’s ability to function and live well(Cram, 2014; Durie, 1998). However, Māori have some of the worst wellbeing statistics in New Zealand, with low levels of educational attainment, high levels of unemployment and incarceration, inequitable access to healthcare, decreasing levels of home ownership, lower than average incomes, higher than average mortality rates, and the highest levels of suicide since records began (Chalmers, & Williams, 2018). The premise of this kaupapa Māori project is that mana (prestige, status, influence) is a fundamental element of wellbeing (Reedy, & Reedy, 2013). A second element relates to kaitiakitanga (caring, sharing and guardianship) – specifically, the responsibilities associated with nurturing mana enhancing relationships. We argue that the recognition of mana, in all its forms, is important for mokopuna, but that mana requires actioning, through kaitiakitanga (Marsden, 2003; Paul-Burke & Rameka, 2016).

Potential Research Impact?

This project will inform current and future practice through addressing the identified gap in kaiako pedagogical knowledge and expertise, thereby supporting kaiako to realise the bicultural vision of Te Whāriki 1996, and 2017. The project will aid the delivery of bicultural ECE programmes through sharing knowledge and understandings of Te Ao Māori, and associated tikanga, attitudes, skills, values and behaviours that are derived from the exploration of the concepts of mana and kaitiakitanga. It will provide access to deeper understandings of curriculum content and practices related to mana and kaitiakitanga and will include; examples of mana and kaitiakitanga in practice; voices of the participants, kaumātua and Māori leaders; identification of enablers and barriers that have been worked through and may be faced by others; and kaiako voices on how best to support mana and kaitiakitanga in ECE. Through growing pedagogical expertise, kaiako confidence and competence to reflect tikanga Māori in everyday practice will be heightened.