Teachers will be required to learn the Maori language and culture under new rules to be introduced next month, but the Secondary Principals' Association says making it compulsory will cause resentment.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the Cultural Competency programme would begin to be introduced later this year and would be in every school by the end of 2012.
It requires teachers to study tikanga Maori and te reo during their university studies, training courses and at school.
Dr Sharples said it would also show teachers how to interact with their communities, particularly local iwi and other Maori organisations. He had told Education Minister Anne Tolley about the programme and said she was happy about it. "It's a way of training teachers and involving them in the community and the Maori concept of teaching and learning."
Once implemented, the programme would become part of everyday life in every school, he said. "I went to one school where they asked me in for advice ... I said, `Well, who's the local iwi here?' ... They didn't even know."
Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said he supported the concept behind the programme but did not believe it should be compulsory.
"When you make those sort of things mandatory it raises people's hackles and it's far better to persuade them that it's a good idea and to fund it, but to make it compulsory you will end up getting people there who resent being there because they're made to do it."
There was no silver bullet for improving Maori student achievement. It should not be left solely to schools but should be a community and multi-agency approach, he said.
The Cultural Competency programme was similar to recommendations made by the Maori Youth Council, which reported back to Parliament yesterday.
It suggested all future secondary school teachers be required to complete level one courses in te reo and Maori culture while at university, that there be better relationships between schools and communities, and that greater resources be available to current teachers.
Council member Kahurangi Maxwell, 23, from Rotorua, said te reo was a vehicle to understanding culture but was not enough on its own.
"It's too often that Maori students are not really understood. Maori have to fit into a certain box, rather than the box fitting Maori."
The group also recommended mentors be assigned to those attending restorative justice family group conferences, a national youth Maori radio station be created and that there be regular youth representation in Parliament.
Dr Sharples said he would hand the report on to other ministers and Maori MPs and was confident much of it could be implemented.
"Well, I am Government and I'll certainly implement as many of those things myself as I can and it's up to the ministers themselves if they see something worthwhile in there that's worth following, but they should at least read the report."