A University of Canterbury Māori doctoral student who graduates today had her research approved by the university 20 minutes before the February 2011 earthquake hit.
Dr Melanie Riwai-Couch has five children aged 5 to 14 and is a Christchurch school principal at one of the fastest growing Māori immersion schools in New Zealand, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi. She has iwi affiliations with Rangitane ki Wairau, Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Apa ki Te Rā Tō.
Dr Riwai-Couch graduates today with a PhD in education after investigating ways that schools and iwi can work together to better support Māori students to do better at school.
She looked at three case studies including representatives from the Ministry of Education, schools from the North and South Islands and iwi education spokespeople.
“In New Zealand, Māori students are not as successful as their non-Māori peers, but students at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whanau Tahi, like many other Maori immersion settings, excel in both Māori and English.
“When iwi and schools work together to make decisions about what is taught at school Māori students are more likely to achieve better school marks, as well as be more connected with their cultural identity.
“Approaches to achieving education equity, including schools working with iwi and Māori, are important for informing education approaches and strategy. How those approaches are informed, developed and implemented is equally important in achieving models likely to positively affect Māori achievement in education.
“This is also important in ensuring that participation expectations of iwi are co-constructed, reasonable and appropriately resourced. A framework for iwi-school communities of practice is proposed, including recommendations for iwi, schools and the Ministry of Education.”
Dr Riwai-Couch is one of 1200 Canterbury students who graduate this week. A policewoman, a diplomat and a chief executive will be awarded honorary doctorates.
Superintendent Sandra Manderson will be awarded a Doctor of Laws. She was the first female District Commander to be appointed in New Zealand. Diplomat Rosemary Banks, who has recently held the position of New Zealand's Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, will be awarded a Doctor of Literature. She was formerly New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Arguably one of New Zealand’s most influential business leaders, chief executive of clothing manufacturer Icebreaker and former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe will be awarded a Doctor of Commerce. He has been Icebreaker chief executive since June last year.