20 Jan 2017
“New Zealand institutions are getting stronger at integrating Māori thinking, values and aspirations, but we need to pick up the pace,” says Te Marino Lenihan, the new Kaiārahi (Strategic Advisor - Māori) at Ara Institute of Canterbury.
Lenihan is relatively new to the education sector, albeit that he has lectured and tutored at diploma, undergrad and post-grad levels in his specialist subject area (kaitiakitanga). His own academic pathway saw him graduate from Auckland University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts (double major in Māori and Spanish languages), and then again in 1996 with a Bachelor of Laws.
Lenihan points out that while there are many well-educated Māori, there are many more that have failed to flourish within – or have been failed by – New Zealand’s education system. “The system worked for me,” Lenihan says, “but the statistics clearly show that it hasn’t worked for a large part of the Māori population. We need to be the change we want to see.”
Lenihan’s new role as Kaiārahi puts him in the driver’s seat to help Ara achieve its ambitious goals to lift Māori completion rates to equal those of the general student population. “If we want to affect change then we have to examine how we are currently doing things and be prepared to adjust.”
“I started my new role in November and my initial impressions of the climate here at Ara have been positive and encouraging. I sense some real and genuine intent to put ourselves under the microscope and consider what we can do differently and I’ve found at least one corner of Ara where completion rates for Māori students is on par with non-Māori and tracking above our overall target. That is outstanding and shows us that it can be done.”
Lenihan is impressed by the clarity of the new Ara Vision and firmly believes that the success of our students has a direct relationship with the effectiveness of our staff. His role will help navigate this space and guide how the content and delivery of Ara courses and programmes can better resonate with students, iwi and industries, including Māori.
Being new to the role, Lenihan is yet to pin-point exactly how best to lift Māori student completion rates but he believes that things will improve when Māori students see themselves in the bigger picture. “Once they can see the synergies between our courses and the needs of their own whānau/hapū/iwi, then their motivation and self-belief will grow and we will then see a lift in completion rates.” Lenihan believes that the key to unlocking Māori potential within the education system is by aligning it with culture.
“We are hands-on sort of people,” Lenihan notes, “accustomed to learning through doing, and polytechnics are perfectly suited to this type of education.” He wants to see Ara move to the forefront of tertiary education provision for Māori, attracting more Māori back into education with courses and programmes that integrate more kaupapa Māori perspective, are ‘hands-on’ in nature, and ‘sing synergies’ with iwi and industry needs.
“I’m not saying everyone has to be an expert in things Māori but I do believe that valuing things Māori and incorporating relevant aspects within our courses and programmes will have a positive impact of Māori retention and completion rates.”
Lenihan’s primary hapū affiliations lie with Ngāi Tūāhuriri (North Canterbury), Ngāti Huirapa (South Canterbury), and Ngāti Huikai (Banks Peninsula). His mother (Gloria Reuben) was the eldest child of Marsden and Bernice Reuben of Tuahiwi. His father (Garry Lenihan) is the grandson of Irish immigrants from Millstreet, County Cork. His three children all grew up speaking Māori as their first language, although he notes that their willingness and proficiency to speak Māori was hard to sustain once they went to school as there was only one or two other children who could also speak te reo. He hopes that this will not be the case when his grandchildren go to school in 20-30 years’ time, and he wants to help Ara be part of the solution to make sure it doesn’t.
“Ara is pleased to welcome Te Marino Lenihan as our new Kaiārahi. He brings a fresh perspective and experience to the institute as we strive for greater integration of Māori culture across all areas of Ara and to delivering on our Māori student completion targets,” says Kay Giles, Ara Chief Executive.