New Zealand’s Aotearoa history curriculum ‘sign of a mature society’


Putting New Zealand’s own history at the center of the country’s schooling is a sign of a mature society and will help tackle inequality, educators say.

A document from the Treaty of Waitangi.
Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The government has released the final version of the curriculum for Aotearoa New Zealand Stories and Te Takanga o Te Wā, which will be compulsory in all schools up to year 10.

Launching the program yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was enabling New Zealanders to ‘understand each other better, learning more about Maori people, the history of Pasifika migrants, our communities Asians”.

It sparked a debate in Parliament, where ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said she was focusing too much on colonization and dividing people into villains and victims.

The program ignored advances in science and technology and the women’s movement, things New Zealand could be proud of, she said.

“Instead, this history program is all about colonization and two groups of people, the Maori and the Pākehā, it doesn’t really talk about the beauty of New Zealand’s history and the fact that we are a multi-ethnic society.

“We need to make sure that we raise our children to ensure that they are empowered to live in a society where everyone learns all aspects of the New Zealand history curriculum.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Sylvia Park School where she and Ministers Kelvin Davis, Jan Tinetti and Aupito William Sio launched the Aotearoa Stories program in New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched New Zealand’s Aotearoa Stories program at Sylvia Park School on Thursday.
Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro

Green Party co-leader James Shaw told MPs it was essential to recognize that New Zealand was built on notions of imperialism and xenophobia.

“One of the ways you empower people is to be honest about the past…and that’s actually how you start to be able to think about the future,” Shaw said.

“If Brooke wants to talk about other ethnicities, let’s talk about the early waves of Chinese settlers who were absolutely targets of xenophobia and were treated appallingly by the Pākehā settlers, in fact they only got an apology for that over the past 20 years.

“It wasn’t a nice story and I think it’s really important that we’re honest about it and just say here’s what happened, what happened, and there’s of the consequences we feel today for this, especially for the Maori. .


Charlotte Macdonald, a history professor at Victoria University, said it was a sign of a mature society to “put our own history at the center of our education”.

“It’s a bit like sleepwalking if we don’t know our stories, whether as individuals, as communities, families, communities or as a national society, then we are walking blind, both in the present and in the future.

Rather than a ‘victims and villains’ view of history, there were wide-ranging themes – as well as plenty of opportunities for schools to explore how history unfolded in their area, he said. she declared.

“It could be who signed the petition for women’s suffrage in 1893 in Hokitika or South Dunedin or Dargaville…all of these events can be explored.”

Te Akatea, the Māori Principals Association, said the program had the potential to transform education and society.

“It’s about understanding an accurate historical account of how we all got here in Aotearoa, and that if we knew the accurate account of how we all got here, then we would be more likely to think, to speak and teach about decolonization and honorable ways, and I say honorable ways in terms of Te Tiriti as a foundation,” said association president Bruce Jepsen.

“I think we always find space for the things we value. If we’re talking about transforming New Zealand education to address the inequalities created by the previous curriculum, that’s our opportunity.

“If we do this job properly, we’re going to end up with a fantastic company here in New Zealand.”

Jepsen said his school has built relationships with local iwi and incorporated localized history into the curriculum.

The new curriculum was officially announced last February, following a commitment made in September 2019 that history would be compulsory in all New Zealand schools.

The government completed consultation on the curriculum in June, with teachers saying it would help fill “dismal” gaps in knowledge about the country’s past.

This was after criticism from a panel of experts who found that the draft curriculum failed to include topics such as women, work and the economy, and the 600 years of pre-colonial Maori life.

The changes are part of the government’s bid to clarify what children will need to know in each subject, with revamps of English, maths and science curricula expected to follow over the next four years.


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