Waikato researcher helps bridge gap for Māori students in NCEA

31 March 2020

Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan
Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan (left) with Andrea Gray, Deputy Chief Executive of Digital Assessment Transformation at NZQA (right).

A University of Waikato academic who has become a pioneer for te reo Māori in technology is part of a project that aims to normalise te reo Māori in NCEA learning.

Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan leads a team based in the University’s Computer Science Department who areworking with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to investigate digital tools of te reo Māori that could be used for online NCEA exams.

Dr Keegan says it is important that Māori language speaking learners have the same services when accessing technology as English speaking learners.

“This research will investigate two areas; Māori spell checking and Māori text to speech as it applies to NZQA Digital Assessment. The intention is to have Māori speaking learners as comfortable in the online assessment environment as English speaking learners.

“We acknowledge NZQA for their leading visions and feel fortunate to be able to assist NZQA to develop these tools that will normalise te reo Māori in NCEA exams. This aligns with our research focus of enabling the propagation of te reo Māori in a technological environment.”

NZQA Deputy Chief Executive Māori, Alex Bidois, says the project is part of eliminating barriers for Māori learners, enabling them to reach their potential.

Dr Keegan has paved a way in the te reo Māori digital space, having been involved in projects including Microsoft keyboard, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office in Māori.

In 2009, Dr Keegan spent six months with Google in Mountain View as a visiting scientists, assisting with the Google Translator Toolkit for Māori, which resulted in further work with Google that led to the Translate in Māori tool.

In 2013, he was awarded the University of Waikato Māori / Indigenous Excellence Award for Research, and in 2017 he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

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