Professor Elizabeth Mary Rata

PhD, MEd, BA


Elizabeth Rata is a professor in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland and Director of the Knowledge in Education Research Unit (KERU).  She was a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Georgetown University, Washington, DC in 2003. Her major works are: A Political Economy of Neotribal Capitalism, 2000, and The Politics of Knowledge in Education, 2012. She is a sociologist of education with research interests into the effects of global economic change on democracy, ethnicity, socio-economic class, higher education, and curriculum knowledge.

Elizabeth Rata's speeches

Research | Current


Newsroom, 17 April 2018 The Basic Flaw in our Education System


NCEA system gets learning the wrong way round, NZ Herald,  5th July 2018


‘Handicapped by Knowledge Blindspot’ NZ Herald, 7 December 2017, A34.


Academic learning a path to better things and we should treasure it. New Zealand Herald 8 May 2015, A32.




Project One: Knowledge and Democracy

This major theoretical inquiry is about the connection between the type of knowledge taught in education systems like New Zealand’s and the viability of democracy in the 21st century. It has long been assumed that educated people will be committed to democratic principles such as equality and justice and to the institutions which safeguard these principles. However, the emergence of populism and authoritarian governments around the world suggest that we can no longer assume the strength of democracy nor its inevitability as the political system for the future. What then does this new world hold for New Zealand? What can our education do to ensure that democracy remains strong in this country? My research examines the type of knowledge taught at school and how it is taught. I ask how this knowledge and the type of thinking it develops produces young people who have the ability and the desire to be democratic citizens. The publications for this Project are:


Rata, E. (2017) Connecting Knowledge to Democracy In Knowledge, curriculum and equity:

Social realist perspectives. In Barrett, B., Hoadley, U. & J. Morgan, (Eds.), Routledge. (pp. 19-32); London: Routledge.

Rata, E.  (2018), ‘A Durkheimian Approach to Knowledge and Democracy’ In. Guile, D.,

Lambert D. & M. Reiss (Eds.), Sociology, Curriculum Studies and Professional Knowledge: New Perspectives on the work of Michael Young (pp. 73-83). London & New York: Routledge. Chapter 5.

Rata, E. (2014). Knowledge and democracy: The strife of the dialectic. In Barrett,

B. & Rata, E. (Eds.), Knowledge and the future of the curriculum: International studies in social realism. (pp. 79-91). Basingstoke UK: Palgrave MacMillan.



Project Two: Knowledge and Teaching


The purpose of this ongoing theoretical work is to understand the how academic knowledge might be best designed for teaching so that it is accessible for children in all social groups, especially those who have missed out on the benefits of education historically. My work in this field has benefitted greatly from my involvement with the social realism researchers who hold biennial symposia at Cambridge University and from the Knowledge in Education Research Unit in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland.

Publications from this Project are:


Rata, E. (2012) The Politics of Knowledge in Education. London: Routledge.

Journal Articles

Rata, E. (2017). Knowledge and Teaching, British Educational Research Journal. 43(5),


Rata, E. (2016). A pedagogy of conceptual progression and the case for academic

knowledge. British Educational Research Journal, 42 (1), 168-184.

Rata, E. and Taylor, A. (2015). Knowledge equivalence discourse in New Zealand

secondary school science. New Zealand Journal of Educational Research. 50(2), 223-238. DOI 10.1007/s40841-015-0020-1

Rata, E. (2012) The Politics of Knowledge in Education. British Educational

                   Research Journal, 38(1), 103-124. 

The research is being extended in a forthcoming paper written with my colleagues Brian Barrett and Graham McPhail entitled ‘An Engaging Pedagogy for an Academic Curriculum’. The ideas are also contributing to the model of depth pedagogy (Project 3) being undertaken with colleagues from the Engineering Faculty at the University of Auckland.


Project Three:  Engineering Course Design and Student Achievement: A Model of Depth Pedagogy


The study is a joint project between the Faculties of Engineering and Education. It investigates the teaching of complex concepts in the first-year generic electrical engineering course. The study has led to the development of the Model of Depth Pedagogy (incorporating the ideas developed in Projects 2 and 4). The model was first presented to the Association of Australian Engineering Education (AAEE) Conference and will be available in a forthcoming paper.

Collis, B., Wang, C., Rowe, G., Rata, E. & McPhail, G. ‘Towards an informed course design’

Association of Australian Engineering Education (AAEE) Conference, Sydney, 10-13 December 2017.



Project Four: Curriculum Makers in an Innovative Learning Environment


This project was led by my colleague Dr Graham McPhail. We investigated curriculum design and implementation at an Auckland 21st Century Secondary School. It led to a major international collaboration with Dr Richard Pountney at the Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University. The school study showed the need to develop the theoretical tools with which to identify, analyse, and explain a particular phenomenon, in this case, the inter-disciplinary nature of curriculum design promoted in this type of school. These tools are published in:

McPhail, G. & Rata, E. (2017). A theoretical model of curriculum design: ‘Powerful

Knowledge’ and ‘21st Century Learning’. In. B. Barrett, U. Hoadley & J. Morgan (Eds.)  Knowledge, curriculum and equity: Social realist perspectives. Routledge publisher. Ch 6.

McPhail, G. & Rata, E. (2015). Comparing Curriculum Types: 'Powerful Knowledge' and

'21st Century Learning' New Zealand Journal of Educational Research, 51(1), 53-68.


Project Five: Mathematics Curriculum Design in a Knowledge School


This project is at the research design stage and will involve the design and ongoing evaluation of the cumulative knowledge building in Year 7-13 mathematics at a knowledge rich school in New Zealand. The curriculum design will apply the Depth Pedagogy Model.


Project Six: TransAcquisition Pedagogy for Academic Success in Bilingual Education


This Project is extending the TransAcquistion Pedagogical Model (TAP) designed and trialled by my colleague, Dr Tauwehe Tamati. The trial was undertaken as a case study in kura kaupapa Maori schools. It demonstrated how TAP’s application increased both the students’ academic understanding and their ability to use academic forms of English and Maori languages. The purpose of the Project is to show how TransAcquisition Pedagogy is applicable to any classroom with bilingual students throughout the world. My contribution is to bring together ideas from linguistics and knowledge theory in order to examine the connection between a child’s understanding of academic ideas and the acquisition of language needed for this highly complex work. To do so I identify three ways to show how language functions as a component of cognitive activity.


Project Seven: Localisation and Ethnicity in Education


This Project continues my long-term research into the ways in which the ethnic politics of the post-1970s’s decades has influenced education. More recently I have examined the localisation of the curriculum and pedagogy with examples from New Zealand. The project has involved fruitful collaborations with colleagues and masters and doctoral students over the years leading to the following publications.


Lynch, C. & Rata, E. (under review). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A New Zealand Case


Rata, E. (2017) Ethnic Revival. In Fathali M. Moghaddam Ed. The SAGE Encyclopedia of

Political Behavior, (pp. 265-268). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McPhail, G., Rata, E., & Siteine, A. (2018).  The Changing Nature of Music Education. In G.

McPhail, V. Thorpe & S. Wise, Case studies in educational change. Perspectives from music education in Aotearoa/New Zealand (pp.  74-91). London: Routledge.

Lomax, D. & Rata, E. (2016). Diversity, social cohesion and the curriculum: A study of a

Muslim girls’ secondary school in New Zealand, Pacific-Asian Education. 28, 31-50.

Rata, E. M. & Zubaran, C. (2016). Ethnic Classification in the New Zealand

Health Care System, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 41: 192–209

Rata, E. (2015). Multiculturalism and education. In Mansouri, F. (Ed.), Cultural, Religious

and Political Contestations: The Multicultural Challenge.  (pp.107-118). Springer.

Rata, E. (2014). The Multicultural-Liberal Contradiction. In Boulou Ebanda de B'béri &

Fethi Mansouri (Eds.), Global Perspectives on the Politics of Multiculturalism in the 21st Century. (pp. 34-49). London & New York: Routledge.

Lourie, M., & Rata, E. (2014). A critique of the role of culture in Maori education. British

Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(1), 19-26. 

Rata, E. (2013). Knowledge and the Politics of Culture: An example from New Zealand’s

Higher Education Policy and Practice. Anthropological Theory, 13 (4), 329-346.

Rata, E. & Tamati, T. (2013). The Effect of Indigenous Politics on English Language

Provision in New Zealand's Maori Schools. Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 12(5), 262-276.

Rata, E. (2011). Theoretical Claims and Empirical Evidence in Maori Education

Discourse. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(10), 1060-1072.

Rata, E. (2012). A Critical Study of Maori Education, in Openshaw, R. and Clark, J.

(Eds.), Critic and Conscience: Essays on Education in Memory of John Codd and Roy Nash, (pp. 175-202). Wellington: NZCER.



Teaching | Current

Postgraduate supervision



Completions (PhD and EdD)

Alexis Siteine, 2018

Knowledge, Identity and curriculum: A Sociological Study of Ethnicity in New Zealand Education

Faculty of Education and Social Work Dean's List

Nominated for NZARE Sutton-Smith Best Doctoral Award

Zulfa Sakhiyya, 2018

Knowledge and the Market: The Internationalisation of Indonesian Higher Education

Tauwehe Sophie Tamati, 2016

Transacquisition Pedagogy for Bilingual Education: A Study in Kura Kaupapa Māori Schools in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dean’s List. Nominated for UoA Best Doctoral Thesis. Nominated for NZARE Sutton-Smith Best Doctoral Award

Saba Kiani, 2014

Structural contradictions and political tensions in Iranian higher education: The case of English for Academic Purposes Programmes

Megan Lourie, 2013

Symbolic policy: A study of biculturalism and Maori language education in New Zealand

Nominated for NZARE Sutton-Smith Best Doctoral Award

Mallika Bandara, 2012

The feminisation of migration: Sri Lankan women professional in New Zealand

Graham McPhail, 2012

The canon or the kids: Teachers and the recontextualisation of classical and popular music in the secondary school curriculum

Faculty Nomination for UoA Best Doctoral Thesis. NZARE Sutton-Smith Best Doctoral Award Recipient

Leon Benade, 2011

From technicians to teachers: The New Zealand curriculum and the development of ethical teacher professionality

Kevin Kennan, 2010

Spiritual intelligence and imagination in New Zealand students


Current Doctoral Supervisions



Barbara Ormond

Teachers’ decisions in determining critical knowledge for secondary school history

Daniel Couch

Working Title: A Critical Analysis of Afghanistan’s Higher Education Strategic Planning

Yi Huang

Exploring Chinese PhD candidates transformative learning experiences at the University of Auckland

Vicki Earl

What we teach in English and how we teach it: Case studies from New Zealand secondary school English departments

Christopher Poor

Global crisis and the self-education of humanity: A transformational praxis model

Sheraz Akhtar

Educational Experiences of Pakistani Christian Refugees in Thailand

Temitope Adelekan

Knowledge in the New Zealand University

Deborah Lomax

A case study of the pedagogical identities reproduced and created in state integrated Islamic schooling in New Zealand

Cristopher Lynch

Reviving the Enlightenment in New Zealand Education

Xiaoming Tian

Interculturality in China’s EFL (English as foreign language) policies and practices






Lizzie Grace

Navigating Curriculum and Pedagogy in Secondary English Text Selection

Louise Zame

Knowledge and Inquiry Learning in a Primary School

Mi Zhou

Comparing the New Zealand and Chinese curricula reforms


Masters Completions

Noella Yoon 2017

National certificate of educational achievement (NCEA): education or populism?

Cristopher Lynch 2017

Teachers’ attitudes to Maori educational achievement initiatives

Vimla Sewpershad 2017

Selecting and Sequencing: Closing the gaps in secondary school mathematics learning

Emma McKeown 2016/17

Policies in Self-Managing Schools

Rochelle Spicer 2016/17

A double edged sword: The effects of changes to a school's decile rating

Steven McDonald 2016

Youth Smoking: Why do they do it?

Charles Liu 2015

Teaching writing in South Auckland primary school

Deborah Lomax 2015

Curriculum Dilemmas: A study of an Islamic girls secondary school in New Zealand

Fifita Fakatulolo Koester

Multliteracies in Tongan education policy and practice

Neil Morrow

Subject-Specific Mathematical Vocabulary in Mathematics Lessons

Anita Taylor 2014

Investigating the equity of NCEA pathways by measuring parity of innovation year 11 core subject courses in stte schools of high, mid and low decide rankings

Veronica Lovejoy 2013

Female motivation to succeed in secondary school history

Daniel Couch, 2011

The ‘new education’ in New Zealand during the 1930s and 1940s

Athlene Ramsay, 2011

Teachers choosing to teach in poor areas

Bishard Mutepha, 2010

The experience of Zimbabwean families in New Zealand

Mallika Bandara, 2007

Cultural identity and change: The experience of migrant women in New Zealand

Jill Burgess

Beliefs and practice: Teacher responses to the bicultural requirements in current New Zealand early childhood education

Linda Cheeseman, 2005

Intentions versus implementation in the numeracy development project

Ta Taoro, 2005

Students’ explanations of their truancy behaviour

Andrew Stierman, 2005

The virtual Colombo Plan

Pamela Young

Where Ta meets Va: Pacific Island peoples’access to the creative industries of New Zealand






  • 2017: World Class professor Award to State University of Semarang, Ministry of Higher Education, Indonesia
  • 2014: Azim Premji Foundation Award, India
  • British Educational Research Journal Paper of the Year Award, 2012
  • International Journal Board for:

    International Studies in Sociology of Education (appointed 2006)

    British Educational Research Journal (appointed 2015)

  • Fulbright Senior Scholarship, Georgetown University, 2003
  • Faculty of Education Excellence in Supervision Award, 2013
  • Excellence in Tertiary Teaching Award, Auckland College of Education, 2002
  • University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship


Areas of expertise

  • Sociology of Education
  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Anthropology of Education
  • Education Policy
  • History of New Zealand Education
  • Maori Education
  • Neotribal Capitalism
  • Higher Education
  • Knowledge and Democracy
  • Ethnic Politics
  • Social Realism
  • Teacher Education

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 308
New Zealand