Kia Aroha is a public secondary school serving 300 students, most of them are Māori or from the Pacific Islands. The school has taken a radically different approach to education, developing a special character with it's community (in Otara, South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand) that focuses on bilingual, critically conscious, culturally responsive, social justice education.
Kia Aroha explicitly focuses it's curriculum around a critical analysis of the historical and present realities that affect their students lives. Empowering them with the skills and knowledge to be able to explore their experiences, contextualise them and examine how these have shaped their own sense of self. This is done through a critically conscious, culturally responsive pedagogy designed to ensure that the learning is relevant to the identity and experience of the child. It also focuses on ensuring the learning is based on a foundation of self knowledge and pride, ensuring that Māori and Pasifika identity, knowledge and way's of knowing are at the centre of the academic space. Allowing students to be affirmed in their identity, and extend their cultural knowledge - be confident in who they are.
The concept of Kia Aroha (through authentic love and care), underpins the schools approach to learning as a whanau (family). Drawing from traditional Māori and Pasifika ways of learning, the school intentionally designs the learning space to fit the child so that they don't have to 'constantly adjust to fit in'. Everything from the physical space, to relationships, to pedagogy is designed to create an environment that recognises, affirms and extends the identity of the child.
This combination of critical consciousness, cultural competence and self knowledge and esteem is designed to help children to understand and successfully navigate the present society from a foundation of pride in who they are, but it's also designed to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to envision a different reality, and take actions towards making a change within the society should they choose.
‘We have to develop that critical authentic hope in young people, that tells them that you can make change, and we’re all in this together. And so our curriculum is built around that idea, understanding how society works, how do you play that game and change that game. And what skills do you need in order to do that?’ Ann Milne - Kia Aroha Principal 1994-2016