YEA Data Points

Can data shift equity from aspiration to action?

Written by Dr Eruera Tarena, Executive Director of Tokona te Raki

Imagine a future where our education system and economy could be designed based on the value of rangatiratanga so rangatahi and their whānau are equipped to determine their own future. That would lead us towards an equitable Aotearoa where all our people can live their best lives.

Our current education system and our economy, however, were designed to create a brown blue-collar workforce to service the needs of industry. This was built into Government policies from as early as the 1860’s to lock Māori in ‘manual not mental labor’ – ideas that were (and still are) firmly rooted in racist beliefs in Māori inferiority and Pākehā superiority. Although our current world is less overt today, the legacy is still there in policies like streaming that unfairly limits Māori prospects resulting in Māori being over-represented in low-pay, low-security jobs. It is these poor jobs that keep our people poor but there is another way.

We need start shifting the conversation about equity from being a lofty principle to become an actionable practice. We need Government, education providers and employers to raise our collective gaze through providing transparency of data. Currently we blame the poor for being poor but transparency of data illuminates the policies and practices that hold inequality firmly in place.

Inequity for Māori is solvable but we must see where these inequities are and who is causing them first if we are to change the conditions that created them. Our Ngāi Tahu Future Skills Strategy, Puta-i-tua, provides two key strategic outcomes to achieve equity for Māori in the Ngāi Tahu takiwā:

1) an additional 400+ rangatahi leaving our secondary education system with Level 3 NCEA every year, 

2) an additional 6000+ Māori in our takiwā in high skilled jobs.

Only once we can ‘see’ inequity can we then begin the real work of changing it and unlock the shared prosperity of a thriving younger Māori youth population supporting an aging Pākehā population into their retirement. Government, education providers and industry need to work with Māori so we can identify where inequities are, what is causing them and form a shared agreement on how we can best tackle them together. This is where data has a key role in making the system visible so we can actually have a go at changing it.