New school curriculum “absolutely vital” to Aotearoa’s learners, says principal

April 5, 2023

New school curriculum “absolutely vital” to Aotearoa’s learners, says principal

Greenhithe Primary School has incorporated Te Ao Māori values into their everyday life. IMAGE: Sophie Watson

The new school histories curriculum highlighting New Zealand’s Māori history is “absolutely vital” to New Zealand’s education system, says a primary school principal.

The Aotearoa NZ’s Histories (ANZH) curriculum aims to emphasise New Zealand’s history in the social sciences area, the first change of the wider curriculum refresh.

Greenhithe Primary School principal Stephen Grady says the curriculum is key to educating Aotearoa’s future generations.

“The more information we can have about our local histories from different perspectives, the rounder education we can give our kids… it doesn’t have to be super in depth but just having an understanding that there were people here before us and why our place is here is very important.”

Grady says the school went in “boots and all” with the change.

Sqc0700 · Curriculum Grady

He says ANZH is fundamental to supporting Māori rights going on.

“I think a lot of moving forward as a country comes down to knowing about and learning from the past… acknowledging what’s happened and being able to use that to further understanding is vital.”

The change in curriculum came as a response to concerns about the lack of visible teaching of the New Zealand Land Wars.

Initially proposed by a group in the Waikato and petitioned by the New Zealand History Teachers Association, former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced it would be part of Aotearoa’s core curriculum in September 2019.

Associate Professor at AUT’s Te Kura Mātauranga School of Education Georgina Stewart (Ngapuhi-nui-tonu) says the ANZH content will contribute to a balanced education.

“I think Māori knowledge has endless infinite potential to enhance standard school curriculum, but I don’t think it can replace [literacy and numeracy].”

The refresh may be coming at the perfect time; Stewart says there has been a “sea change” in how Māori identities are being recognised.

“Normalising being Māori is really important… that’s such a basic thing but it’s not been the case at secondary schools in particular.”

Many of the resources provided by the Ministry of Education for primary aged children are based on Māori creation stories, which Stewart refers to as ‘nature stories’.

“Part of the essence of teaching is about making complicated things simple.”

Grady says these resources make the content more accessible to students across a range of ages.

“It’s something you can use to study and unpack with the older kids, and for the little ones it’s a way of actually engaging them.”

ANZH was introduced to schools at the beginning of 2023, though schools will have until 2026 to integrate the rest of the curriculum refresh into their teaching.

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