“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking”

By Zena Kavas — Biology Teacher, High School

Maria Montessori often discussed the education of the whole child and the value of education not being limited to mere academic development. In Education and Peace (p30) she wrote An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live. Although this book was first published in 1949 the message is just as valuable today. This concept fits well with the Te Whare Tapa Wha model developed by Professor Mason Durie in 1982. Originally developed for the healthcare sector, it is now used in education and career development settings, and is valued due to the focus on holistic development. 

This model represents our ākonga in four dimensions

  • Taha wairua (spiritual aspect or beliefs about purpose or place in the world)
  • Taha tinana (physical aspect or beliefs about ability to do something)
  • Taha whānau (family and friends and beliefs about belonging)
  • Taha hinengaro (mental and emotional aspects, self-confidence)

These four aspects represent the four walls of the whare, and when all four walls are strong and resilient, the whare will be strong and stable. In education, when our ākonga are strong in all four dimensions, they will learn well and develop to their full potential (not just getting good grades.) However, if one of the dimensions is weaker, or compromised, learning and development will be compromised.

When approaching a task or a course, our ākonga will already be having an internal conversation and be forming a set of beliefs.

  1. Do I believe I can do this? (Taha wairua)
  2. Do I have the physical resources I need to do this? (Taha tinana)
  3. Do I have others supporting me to do this? (Taha whānau)
  4. Can I handle or cope with this? (Taha hinengaro)

We encourage students to see the reason why they are working on a task, not just to get it done, or gain the credits, but to see the importance of the learning, to foster curiosity and to see the bigger picture. We attempt to ensure that the physical environment is safe and conducive to learning, and that ākonga will have all the resources that they need. We provide a supportive learning environment, both within the school and by inviting the involvement of whānau and the wider community. And we nurture our ākonga so that they develop the belief that they can achieve what they want to, and that no matter the outcome, valuable learning has occured. 

It is our job as teachers and caregivers to ensure that all aspects of our tamariki are strong, so that our ākonga are receiving an education that is capable of saving humanity.