The New Zealand History Teachers’ Association (NZHTA) is “thrilled” and primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa has described it as “long overdue”. The organisations are reacting to the Government’s announcement that a consistent approach to teaching New Zealand history will be carried out across all schools and kura by 2022.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the National Curriculum currently enables schools and kura to decide how New Zealand history is covered, but variation in delivery means too much is left to chance in the teaching and learning of New Zealand history.
This will changes as a result of today’s announcement, which will see the curriculum updated so that New Zealand history is taught as part of the local curriculum and marau a kura at every level of the compulsory curriculum, from years 1 to 10.
The curriculum changes will come into effect in 2022. They will be gazetted during 2020 in order to give schools and kura time to prepare to implement them.
“The curriculum changes we are making will reset a national framework so all learners and ākonga are aware of key aspects of New Zealand history and how they have influenced and shaped the nation,” says Ardern.
“We have listened carefully to the growing calls from New Zealanders to know more about our own history and identity.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said it is important for learners to understand New Zealand history as a continuous thread, with contemporary issues directly linked to major events of the past.
“Our diversity is our strength, but only when we build connections to each other. We can move forward together, stronger when we understand the many paths our ancestors walked to bring us to today.”
NZHTA Chair Graeme Ball says the announcement goes further than what the association initially asked for.
A petition by the association gathered more than 3600 signatures calling for legislation to make compulsory “the coherent teaching of our own past across appropriate year levels in our schools” with professional development and resources to be provided. It was tabled in Parliament in June.
“The fact that the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Education behind her, has moved so far is, I think, a recognition of the zeitgeist: the time is right.”
“This is a great day for all of our young people and for New Zealand as a whole,” says Ball.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart is also pleased.
“It is something we have been advocating for some time,” she says. “Our children need to know the true history of Aotearoa if they are to grow up to be informed citizens.”
Stuart says that there will need to be support for teachers if New Zealand history is to be taught successfully in every school, including professional development and appropriate resources.
NZEI Te Riu Roa’s Matua Takawaenga, Laures Park, says quality resources already exist, such as the Ministry of Education resource, Te Takanga o te Wā.
“It is an excellent resource that gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate with local iwi and hapū in teaching the stories and histories of their geographic location. Many schools have taken up this approach very easily and successfully. As a result, tamariki have gained a deeper sense of their history and personal identity.”
However, not everyone agrees that today’s announcement is a step forward.
Graham Foster of Education Futures 21C says that although adding New Zealand History to the curriculum may add value to understanding our bicultural heritage, it dismantles the value of the New Zealand Curriculum as the “random additions do not fit within the concept of a coherent curriculum”.
“It’s like having a whole bunch of ingredients but no recipe to guide the application of them to a worthwhile outcome. Further we are adding to the stresses of an already over-full curriculum and causing additional teacher-educator stress,” says Foster.
Minister Hipkins says the Ministry of Education will work collaboratively with historical and curriculum experts, iwi and mana whenua, Pacific communities, students and ākonga, parents and whānau, to develop a New Zealand history update.
“Once the updates to the curriculum are known, existing supports will be reviewed and an implementation package with teaching and learning resources will be developed ready for the 2022 school year.”
The package will allow schools and kura to include the new content and learning expectations in their local curriculum, working in partnership with their local communities and mana whenua.
New Zealand history will span the full range of New Zealanders’ experiences and are expected to include:
- The Arrival of Māori to Aotearoa New Zealand;
- First encounters and early colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand;
- Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Treaty of Waitangi and its history;
- Colonisation of, and immigration to, Aotearoa New Zealand, including the New Zealand Wars;
- Evolving national identity of Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries;
- Aotearoa New Zealand’s role in the Pacific;
- Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 20th century and evolution of a national identity with cultural plurality.