'Racist' teachers shock researcher

Hana Turner says teachers' expectations were highest for Asian students, followed by Pakeha and Pasifika students.
Hana Turner says teachers' expectations were highest for Asian students, followed by Pakeha and Pasifika students.
A researcher has been shocked by the racist attitudes of the teachers she interviewed for work looking at expectations for students' success.

Hana Turner conducted the survey for her thesis "Teacher Expectations, Ethnicity and the Achievement Gap", part of a Master of Education degree at the University of Auckland.

"I wanted to find out whether teachers had different expectations for their students based on their ethnicity," she said.

But the responses from the 15 secondary school mathematics teachers in regards to their Maori students left her reeling.

She said she found some of the teachers blamed Maori students and their families for their lack of success in the classroom.

Teachers' expectations were highest for Asian students, followed by Pakeha and Pasifika students.

"But then much, much lower than that were the Maori students," Ms Turner said.

"The teachers predominantly had very negative opinions about their Maori students.

"They had very low expectations for them. They blamed the students themselves for not being as competent as other ethnic groups and they blamed the students' families.

"They said that the parents weren't interested in their children's education and that many Maori had criminal tendencies and would probably end up in jail."

Statements from the thesis included one from a teacher who said, "I watch this Police 10/7 [television show] ... The suspects will always be Maori."

The study involved 15 mathematics teachers and 361 Year 9 and Year 10 students. The participants were recruited from five secondary schools in Auckland, three low- decile, one mid-decile and one high-decile.

The teachers and students completed questionnaires and ten teachers also participated in semi-structured interviews.

Ms Turner has been a teacher since 1998, having completed a Bachelor of Education and a DipTchg at the University's Faculty of Education.

She returned to the university to do her Masters on a Teach NZ scholarship, and graduates today.

Despite being blue eyed and having fair hair, Ms Turner is of Ngati Ranginui descent. Her grandfather, Maharaia Winiata, was the first Maori to study and be awarded a PhD outside of New Zealand.

Ms Turner hopes her thesis will highlight that work is still needed around culturally-responsive teaching in schools and teacher training organisations.

- Nicholas Jones of the NZ Herald

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