by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Maori, Pasifika and Asian children and young people make up about 40 per cent of students enrolled in Catholic schools in New Zealand, according to Ministry of Education figures.
The percentage of students at Catholic schools who are of European ethnicity is tracking down in all New Zealand dioceses, but it is decreasing fastest in Auckland, the chief executive of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office, Br Pat Lynch, FSC, told NZ Catholic.
As of July 1, 57 per cent of students at Catholic schools throughout New Zealand were of European ethnicity, with 13 per cent Maori, 15 per cent Pasifika and 11 per cent Asian, with “other” and foreign students making up 4 per cent. This is out of a total of 65,785 students.
When analysed by individual diocese, the multicultural nature of Auckland is shown. There are about 24,000 students at Catholic schools in Auckland diocese and their ethnicity is 42 per cent European, 9 per cent Maori, 28 per cent Pasifika, 16 per cent Asian and 5 per cent other and foreign students.
The percentage of students of European ethnicity at Catholic schools in other dioceses are: – Hamilton, 65 per cent; Palmerston North, 66 per cent; Wellington, 54 per cent; Christchurch, 73 per cent; Dunedin, 75 per cent.
Br Lynch said New Zealand’s live birth rate is at its highest level since the 1960s and this reflects the “fertility levels being demonstrated by Pacific, Maori and Asian peoples in New Zealand”.
The ethnicity statistics for Catholic schools “represent a major challenge for the schools, our Church and New Zealand society as a whole”, Br Lynch said, noting that Auckland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.
One challenge Br Lynch identified is tapping the leadership and energy of different ethnic groups, so that they are better represented on parish councils, boards of trustees, diocesan and national bodies, as well as helping them being involved in parishes, sports and cultural activities.
Another is mentoring and encouraging promising young people from these groups to do tertiary studies, including theological and pastoral education, he said.
Auckland diocese vicar for education Linda McQuade said the common faith that unites all students in Catholic schools is strengthened by the deep commitment to the faith and the practices of the Church by some migrant families.
Having such diversity of students enriches school prayer, with different languages and cultural aspects being shared, she said.
Ethnic diversity also enriches student learning as they can better understand different cultures, learn tolerance and acceptance of difference, appreciate other languages and receive a greater awareness of the wider world, Ms McQuade said.
She added that Catholic schools are focussed on meeting the needs of all students and ethnicity is not a factor in determining this.
Catholic schools work to “assist students to deepen their understanding and knowledge of the teachings, traditions and practices of the Catholic Church, [and to] develop a personal relationship with Jesus to make a personal commitment to their faith,” Ms McQuade said.
This is alongside everything else provided by schools, including special programmes to ensure all students gain competency in numeracy and literacy, specific assistance where needed and ensuring gifted students are challenged and extended, she said.