ABSTRACT. Using the concept of symbolic policy and drawing from an anthropology of policy approach, this paper explores the ways that bicultural education policy creates and sustains a myth of partnership between Maori and Pakeha/European settler-descendants. Drawing from doctoral research undertaken in mainstream Auckland secondary schools, the paper illustrates the ways that the educational myth of biculturalism is sustained through auditing systems and institutional practices, and discusses one particular effect of this process. For the research participants in the study (a group of non-Maori students learning Maori language), bicultural policy, as it tends to be enacted in schools, appears to contribute to an idealized conception of Maori people. In this idealized conception, Maori people are believed to be speakers of the Maori language and consequently the Maori language is perceived to be healthy and thriving. Whether this perception is widely held is unknown, but it has the potential to impact negatively on future Maori language revitalization efforts. pp. 49–60

Keywords: biculturalism; symbolic policy; Maori language education

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