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Ethnic Diversity in New Zealand Education

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Ethnic backgrounds are a form of diversity that is common in schools around New Zealand. New Zealand has been changing over the years and our communities are becoming more diverse as a result. An ethnic group can be described as people who share a common cultural ancestry and having a sense belonging in an identity group which shares extraordinary culture traits such as language, their historical backgrounds or traditions. The most common ethnic groups in New Zealand include Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, Chinese, and each group has its own particular norms and values. Societies around the world are growing closer together as there is more contact between which include the flow of good (international trade is increasing); the progress of information (satellites and the internet); and the progress of people (tourism and migration) (Adams, Openshaw & Hamer, 2005). However, the significant impact of globalisation can be considered an issue for the future on ethnic groups and societies. Understanding classroom diversity is important, whether is cultural diversity, racial diversity or others. Schools and teachers should understand and be accepting of these differences. This means acknowledging that everyone is unique in their own way.

The quality of teaching has a strong influence on the achievements of a student so it’s important that teachers’ further their knowledge on the characteristics of quality teaching so that they we can aid in developing teaching capability (Alton-Lee, 2003). Teaching should be responsive to diversity between different ethnic groups, such as, diversity within Pakeha, Māori, Pasifika and Asian students. The ethnic groups tend to get a lower academic achievement score when comparing to Pakeha/European students. Branch, Goodwin & Gualtieri (1994) believe that the beginning step for making a classroom culturally pluralistic is to aid the teachers so they can learn essential skills that can allow them to make a supportive instructional environment for alternative cultural perspectives. Students need to be able to learn about different cultures around the world so that they feel more comfortable with themselves which can lead to a deeper sense of safety and can enjoy learning at the same time. A strategy for a teacher can be to organise small groups of students who are in different ethnic groups for discussions about their culture. Getting into smaller groups encourages everyone to participate and become more confident, as some students are quiet and more shy so would not want to share with the whole class. It’s important to teach your students to respect and appreciate theirs and other culture and heritages. Some student can feel pressured to dispose of their cultural norms and traditions so that they can fit in in with the prevalent social order. The quality of teaching has a strong influence on the achievements of a student so it’s important that teachers’ further their knowledge on the characteristics of quality teaching so that they we can aid in developing teaching capability. For this learning to take place, new teachers must have the right positive attitudes, knowledge and skills to help make sure their classrooms are an effective learning environment for their students.

A way teachers could help their students is providing opportunities for the students’ parents of different cultures to come into class and share their valued knowledge and expertise with the rest of the class. Teacher as well as parents should encourage to share their cultural and religious identity in schools. If schools and teachers makes a comfortable space for religion and culture, parents will be at ease and will want to contribute. Students and parents should feel welcome at school and in their classrooms so that they can all improve informal relationships leading to trust and therefore can understand each others identities better (Jervis, 1998). Celebrating and participating in cultural events that are important to the cultural communities of your school will help their students understand different cultures. This can create new cultures within schools that can recognise differences as well as reduce distance between home and school. When teachers and parents understand other peoples’ views and perspectives, they will be able to develop stronger voices to expressive their worries, knowledge, priorities and limits (Jervis, 1998). Children from a particular culture are unlikely to perform well academically if teaching styles do not match the ways they talk and learn (Morgan, 2010). If teachers have the knowledge to understand how the attributes of different ethnic learning styles are expressed in a classroom, they’ll be able to teach ethnically diverse children how to learn more efficiently and perform confidently. An improved performance can avoid some children from being labelled as special education students, and help children to return back to regular education programs (Gay, 2002). The students performed more effectively when teachers demonstrated personal care and concern for their students while simultaneously challenging and helping to achieve high academic performance. These teachers were called “warm demanders” according to Gay (2002) as that made the atmosphere in their classrooms warm and developed positive relationships with their students in and out of school. Ethnic stereotypes have a negative influence on children’s’ academic achievement of those in ethnic groups. Culturally responsive teaching encourages and models antiracist education (Gay, 2002). Therefore, making the classroom environment more multicultural for the students’ learning is a form of social action which will promote social justice which is an important aspect of culturally responsive teaching. When culturally responsive teaching, children develop a sense of interdependence and feel like it’s a moral obligation to help their peers learn.

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One of the main reasons for the assessments within schools are to help and improve the students’ learning and teachers and students can respond to the information results it shows. Schools and teacher should know how they will collect, analyse and use the assessment data so it’s effective in meeting the purpose. For improving a child’s learning, assessments are best understood as an ongoing procedure that develops out of interaction between the teaching and learning. The process involves the analysis, understanding of the students learning and provides information of the student’s progress (Ministry of Education, 2009). An effective assessment will be beneficial for the students as it makes it clear for them what they already know, what they can do and how they can learn from it. When the student can see they are making progress, they will feel more confident and feel more motivated to keep up their work. Student get involve by discussing, clarifying and look back at their goals, strategies and their progress with their teachers, parents and their peers (Ministry of Education, 2009). A way a teacher could assess their students is by using dynamic assessment which is a type of interactive assessment which shows potential for learning and interventions to help and support this potential (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2015). This concept of assessment developed from Vygotsky’s idea of the zone of proximal development (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2015). Teachers can learn more about their student by working with them then can observe when the student is working without assistance. This will let the teacher to investigate the way the student reasons with their final piece of work. According to Duchesne & McMaugh (2015), there are some research that imply that dynamic assessment offers more effective results for students that varied from social and ethnic backgrounds which closes the space between the middle class Anglo children and children from other backgrounds. While assessing, the teacher and child work together on a specific task which offers the teachers more opportunities to evaluate the child’s motivation, reasoning towards their task and their enthusiasm towards their future. Duchesne & McMaugh (2015) believe there are various tools that can be used to collect the information required for assessing a child which differ within the dimensions of formal-informal, direct-indirect and qualitative-quantitative. Teachers also make judgements about their students learning progress by observing them, communicating with them and collecting results from formal assessments.

Observing students is a reliable strategy for teacher as they are watching their behaviour, understanding how they communicate with the teacher and their peers, and checking on the children’s progress. By observing and understanding the students progress, teachers will realise which of their students are struggling or falling behind in a certain area of their learning. Therefore, observing will help the teacher to make you quickly recognise and make a change in these learning issues in order to make improvements. In order to do this, the teacher simply scans the classroom and examines what the children are doing as well as listening to what they’re saying as a reflection of their understanding or development skills which offers feedback related to their learning tasks. This can lead to conversations between the teacher and students around learning. Teachers can do this by identifying key open minded questions for their students and leaving around 5 seconds for them to respond as it encourages them to think about their answer, so they don’t have to blurt out their first thought. Some students take longer to answer than others so encouraging student to ask questions should also help them to develop their thinking and learning skills.

New Zealand is a culturally diverse country and students of all ages in school should gain knowledge, skills and attitudes in order for them to be prepared in a multi-cultural world. Teaching for cultural diversity means fostering the students so they can understand and respect diverse perspectives, morals, and languages. Students tend to learn best when their cultures and languages are acknowledged and reflected in their schools and in classrooms. Teachers should be providing practical opportunities and activities for their students so the students can feel proud and would actually want to share more about their culture though cultural groups, cultural or non-cultural events, and school fairs. Assessing their students through dynamic assessment will give the teacher an idea of how the student is doing as it’s a form of interaction which can identify their progress for learning and involved instruction and feedback within the process. Observing by scanning the classroom, understanding their behaviour towards their learning, and listening to their conversation can help the teacher understand the progress of the child’s learning. Students will learn best if they feel accepted, are able to make positive relationships with their peers and teachers. Teachers can aid their students to make connections with their learning and as to home practices as well as the wider world.

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Ethnic Diversity in New Zealand Education. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Ethnic Diversity in New Zealand Education.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Ethnic Diversity in New Zealand Education. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Ethnic Diversity in New Zealand Education [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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