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Source: Massey University

Pūhoro Kaihautu Leland Ruwhiu and Pūhoro student Makiya Katene.

A programme designed to boost the numbers of Māori in science, technology, engineering and maths has graduated its first cohort of secondary school students in what’s being hailed as a breakthrough for Māori education.

Massey University’s Pūhoro STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Academy started in 2016, providing a wrap-around support programme for 97 Māori students at schools in the wider Manawatū area. Within a year, students who hadn’t been on an academic pathway previously were exceeding expectations by passing National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at rates higher than the national average.

Three years later, the Manawatū-based programme is the most comprehensive indigenous STEM programme in the world. Pūhoro has spread to Horowhenua, Bay of Plenty, Kapiti and South Auckland with 439 students across years 11-13.

The programme is the brainchild of director Naomi Manu, who saw the need for a STEM academy for Māori secondary students to provide a long-term skills pipeline from secondary school, through tertiary and into employment.  

“I had always been passionate about STEM education and very passionate about the fact that we need a deliberate strategy around how we improve that for our rangatahi Māori, so I figured I’m at Massey, we have resources that can support the secondary sector to improve that pipeline and we just built it from there,” Ms Manu says.

“It is changing lives – 75 per cent of our rangatahi before this programme were not on an academic pathway so not only have we got them on an academic pathway but they are exceeding expectations around their capability. This also gives us cause for concern as clearly very capable Māori students are being overlooked and for some, discouraged from academic pathways.” 

Pūhoro graduating class with family


The cohort of year 13 high school pupils celebrated at a black tie Pūhoro graduation at the end of last year. Of the current cohort, nearly 50 per cent (36 students) are already enrolled or intending to enrol at Massey to study this year. Another 31 students will be studying at other universities around the country. Massey University is continuing its support for the students, contributing scholarships worth $150,000. 

The Pūhoro STEM Academy has garnered international attention and the graduation ceremony included attendance from the Cyvha Dance Troupe – a Native American group from the United States. A representative of the Keaholoa STEM programme from the University of Hawaii was also present to celebrate the achievements of the Year 13 graduates.

Mana Vautier, (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Raukawa), who is a systems integration engineer for the International Space Station (NASA) at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, also attended. Mr Vautier has been an ambassador from the beginning of the Pūhoro programme, and has been an inspiration and encouraging influence to the students who have been moving year to year through the STEM programme.

Part of the Pūhoro graduating class.

About the programme

Academy members are affiliated to 75 iwi throughout Aotearoa and Pūhoro partners with schools from Manawatū, Bay of Plenty, the Horowhenua and Kapiti regions, and more recently 2018 saw the joining of a cohort of South Auckland schools to the programme.

Student selection into the programme is based on the students’ desire to join as well as meeting the criteria and commitment required to undertake the additional requirements the programme delivers throughout the school year.