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Responding to Superdiversity Whilst Upholding Te Tiriti O Waitangi: Challenges for Early Childhood Teacher Education in Aotearoa New Zealand


Countries with a superdiverse population due to increases in migration have been slow in recognising and addressing social inequalities driven by this situation (Vertovec, 2007). In Aotearoa (New Zealand), there are now more than 200 different ethnic groups and 27.4% of its population was born overseas (Statistics New Zealand, 2019), and there is also an increasing number of students with diverse cultural, linguistic and migration backgrounds enrolled in the country’s early childhood teacher education programmes. The manifestation of superdiversity in Aotearoa is particularly complex and challenging since it occurs within a legislated ‘bicultural’ context (Royal Society of New Zealand, 2013). In light of these concerns, this paper reports findings from a study which utilised a methodology of critical discourse analysis (Gee, 2011; Jørgensen & Phillips, 2002) to examine several key institutional policy documents in order to interrogate the responsibilities of early childhood teacher education in supporting both the country’s commitment to ‘biculturalism’ and its current superdiverse demographics. The theoretical analysis draws on Vertovec’s (2007) superdiversity approach, critical multiculturalism (May, 1999) and critical and Indigenous pedagogies of place (Penetito, 2009; Perumal, 2015). While all the documents make explicit references to ‘bicultural’ commitments, minimal attention is given to migration-related inequality issues. Our analysis highlighted complex inter-relationships and tensions between honouring ‘biculturalism’ and catering for superdiversity. Recognising and addressing this complexity is important in future policy development, and teacher education providers need to ensure that their graduates have the knowledge and skills to work equitably with children, families and communities in order to address inequalities emanating from the history of colonisation in Aotearoa as well as the current superdiversity situation.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-981-15-4124-7_12
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  1. 1.

    We choose to problematise the terms ‘bicultural’ and ‘biculturalism’. Although they derive from recognition of the two original parties to the 1840 Tiriti o Waitangi, the Indigenous Māori and the British Crown, subsequent migration policies have resulted in a greater diversity of ethnicities and languages.

  2. 2.

    The Education Review Office is the government department that regularly evaluates individual ECE services and schools, and also publishes national reports on specific issues.

  3. 3.

    Te Tiriti o Waitangi refers to the original treaty written and signed in te reo Māori, the Māori language.

  4. 4.

    Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Māori text, was signed by over 500 chiefs, and the English version by only 39 (Orange, 2017).

  5. 5.

    There were demonstrable difficulties related to a low response rate with the first ever e-census, conducted in 2018, the implications of which are acknowledged as being particularly concerning for Māori and raise issues of Indigenous data sovereignty (Kukutai & Cormack, 2018).

  6. 6.

    We use the term ‘Tiriti o Waitangi based’ (or more simply Tiriti based) instead of ‘bicultural’ to recognise the first nations status of Māori and the obligations that government, and by extension, teachers have under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to recognise Māori self-determination over their lands, language, knowledges and resources.

  7. 7.

    For example, recent reports have highlighted the need to recognise health issues (Tolley, 2019) and exploitation of migrants (Hickey & Grieveson, 2019) in Aotearoa.

  8. 8.

    The current title for the body that oversees the teaching profession and initial teacher education programme approvals in Aotearoa is ‘Teaching Council New Zealand | Matatū Aotearoa’. Originally the Teacher Registration Board (as per the 1989 Education Act), from 2002 it was called the ‘Teachers Council’ and from 2014 to September 2018, it was entitled the ‘Education Council | Matatū Aotearoa’.

  9. 9.

    This document sets out a list of code of professional responsibility and standards for the teaching profession. The code and standards are required to be used by all teacher education providers to ensure that their student-teachers work towards them during their study and by the Teaching Council in overseeing applicants’ suitability to be granted teacher registration. We also make reference to a fourth document from the Teaching | Education Council (2017b) which provides ‘Examples in practice’ as a companion document to the Code and Standards.

  10. 10.

    Unfortunately space prevents us from pursuing a more in-depth analysis of the key signifiers.

  11. 11.

    Whakapapa are genealogical inter-connections; whānau are extended families; hapū are sub-tribes; iwi are tribes; tūpuna are ancestors; marae are tribal meeting places; waka are the original voyaging canoes of particular tribal ancestors; maunga are mountains. All of these serve as important markers of identity and connection.


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Chan, A., Ritchie, J. (2020). Responding to Superdiversity Whilst Upholding Te Tiriti O Waitangi: Challenges for Early Childhood Teacher Education in Aotearoa New Zealand. In: Fox, J., Alexander, C., Aspland, T. (eds) Teacher Education in Globalised Times. Springer, Singapore.

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