Our Philosophy - Te Nīkau™

Te Nīkau™ framework was developed by life-long educationalist, Cath Rau and underpins the approach to services and projects undertaken by Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust. Te Nīkau™ is an important reference point for ensuring that programmes developed by Kia Ata Mai keep the ākonga at the forefront and takes a strengths-based approach to learning.

The nīkau palm serves as a metaphor for the ākonga or student.

You will notice that the nīkau, in many forms, appears in a range of aspects in Te Kōpuku High as it is an important concept and reference point for our work. From the ground on which it grows to the upper reaches of the graceful fronds the nīkau has become a powerful reminder for us of why we do what we do.

Beginning from the ground we see the nīkau strongly connected to Papatūānuku, the earth. This speaks of the need for all of us to guard the earth that sustains and connects us. Nīkau grow in groves, providing one another with shelter as they grow and this reminds us to maintain a high level of care and respect for the people around us. Values of self respect, respect for others and for the environment arise from this element of the nīkau.

The rings on te kāhiwi (the trunk) remind us of whakapapa - those layers that form an important part of who we are in the world. They remind us of our heritage of culture and language, a lineage of great navigators, innovators and chiefs. Values of whanaungatanga (connectedness) and legacy derive from the kāhiwi.

Te kōpuku (crownshaft) of the nīkau holds the growing heart of the plant wrapped in protective layers. This is a beautiful illustration of the developing person, from birth through to adulthood, surrounded by the many layers of family, community, school, church, and so on, each one unique. The kōpuku reminds us to keep the person at the centre of our plans and actions and to provide them with the best environment we can manage for their optimal development. Over time, as the palm matures, these layers peel away having completed their role in the person’s life. In the bush these fronds fall to the earth and continue to nourish the nīkau with nutrients. The kōpuku embodies values of manaakitanga (care) and tiakitanga (protection).

At the meeting place of te kāhiwi and te kōpuku, where the person connects to their whakapapa, ngā hua (the fruit) of the thriving nīkau bring gifts of colour and nourishment to the environment. An abundance of fruit is a sign that the nīkau is strong and healthy and reminds us that role of education is to grow vibrant individuals who can serve their whānau and community from the abundance of gifts, both spiritual and material, that they possess. Ngā hua symbolise the values of excellence, contribution and service.

Ngā rau (the leaves) of the nīkau represent how the individual interacts with the world around them. Close to the kōpuku the leaves form intricate lattice patterns as they overlap and spread and resemble DNA models. This reminds us that each individual has their own pattern of strengths, passions, gifts and perspectives. We believe that education should help individuals to understand and value their uniqueness, to nurture it and give it expression in the world. Ngā rau carry the values of creativity, vision and innovation.