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Pathways to Retention and Revitalisation of Te Reo Māori

Using data from Growing Up in NZ, researchers took a kaupapa Māori approach to the design, analysis, and interpretation of GUiNZ data to investigate the use of Te Reo Māori among the 6,200 children in the cohort. The full cohort was asked about language use and parents reported on children’s Te Reo Māori use at ages 2 and 4.5. Those with advanced Te Reo Māori were asked further questions.

The researchers were particularly interested in identifying the barriers and enablers that are contributing to the acquisition and retention of Te Reo Māori.

Key Findings

  • The study suggests growth in Te Reo Māori proficiency – close to 10% of the cohort were using Te Reo Māori in everyday conversations and over 75%, of the children in the GUiNZ study, at age 4.5, were able to use some Te Reo Māori.
  • Non-Māori interest in Te Reo Māori is high – 20% of the participants who completed the advanced scale were non-Māori, indicating that the benefits of Te Reo Māori are valued by non-Māori parents.
  • The importance of communities where Te Reo Māori is nurtured for the retention and revitalisation of the language was highlighted within the study. Te Reo Māori proficiency was associated with living in neighbourhoods where there are likely to be more Māori.
  • The impact of having a parent who can speak Te Reo Māori and who are themselves culturally connected was also found to be a positive predictor.
  • Parent-child interactions, such as playing games, reading books, telling stories, singing songs and engaging in counting routines are very important and strongly associated with Te Reo Māori development.
  • Excessive screen time was found to be a negative predictor for Te Reo Māori fluency. Screen time is a clear, modifiable predictor that parents may look to moderate to better promote children’s language development across the board.

The study was undertaken by a group of researchers from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, in association with Otago and Waikato Universities, The Auckland Museum, Te Mātāwai, Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, Te Whānau o Waipereira, Te Puni Kōkiri, Ministry of Education, Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa.

For enquiries about this research please email

The views and interpretations in this report are those of the researchers and are not the official position of the Ministry of Social Development.

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