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Content from pages 2–7 of Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum

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He taonga te mokopuna, kia whāngaia, kia tipu, kia rea.

A child is a treasure, to be nurtured, to grow, to flourish.


All children are born with immense potential. Quality early learning helps our children begin to realise that potential and build a strong foundation for later learning and for life. New Zealand’s early learning standards are amongst the highest in the world and almost all of our children are participating and benefitting from a rich array of relationships and experiences in our early learning settings.

First published in 1996, Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum provided a celebrated framework which has shaped our distinct approach to early learning in Aotearoa. 20 years on I am delighted to introduce this revised and refreshed update.

Unique in its bicultural framing, Te Whāriki expresses our vision that all children grow up in New Zealand as competent and confident learners, strong in their identity, language and culture. It emphasises our bicultural foundation, our multicultural present and the shared future we are creating. It encourages all children to learn in their own ways, supported by adults who know them well and have their best interests at heart.

This vision is expressed in different ways as early learning services work with parents, whānau and communities to design and implement a programme of learning and development that reflects local priorities and supports each child’s personalised learning pathway. The underpinning concept of the whāriki (mat) enables and supports this diversity.

I would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust in supporting the development of the original Te Whāriki, which draws upon traditional Māori concepts underpinning the philosophy of kōhanga reo. These concepts were embraced by the wider early learning sector and continue to frame our thinking today. The Trust has also made a strong contribution to this revision, expanding earlier text to become Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo, a distinct curriculum pathway for mokopuna and their whānau in kōhanga reo.

I also acknowledge those members of the early childhood education sector who have provided valued leadership and expertise which has shaped this document for today’s world, and for the future.

This update reflects changes in the early learning context, including the diversity of New Zealand society today, contemporary theories and pedagogies. It provides clear and empowering learning outcomes, makes explicit links to The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and positions our children as 21st century citizens, learning how to learn in a fast changing and globally connected world. It supports the work of Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako which bring their collective efforts to enabling the learning success of every child.

I am pleased to present this update of a highly regarded and celebrated curriculum and to endorse its equally valued dual pathways. I warmly acknowledge the talents and dedication of the teachers, kaiako and educators, who, together with parents, whānau and communities, will bring this curriculum to life.

Education is the critical cornerstone of lifelong learning and puts our youngest learners on pathways to quality life outcomes.

Tihei mauriora!

Hon Hekia Parata

Minister of Education

Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. Signed in 1840 by representatives of Māori and the Crown, this agreement provided the foundation upon which Māori and Pākehā would build their relationship as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand. Central to this relationship was a commitment to live together in a spirit of partnership and the acceptance of obligations for participation and protection.

Te Tiriti | the Treaty has implications for our education system, particularly in terms of achieving equitable outcomes for Māori and ensuring that te reo Māori not only survives but thrives. Early childhood education has a crucial role to play here, by providing mokopuna with culturally responsive environments that support their learning and by ensuring that they are provided with equitable opportunities to learn. The importance of such provision is underscored throughout Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum.

New Zealand is increasingly multicultural. Te Tiriti | the Treaty is seen to be inclusive of all immigrants to New Zealand, whose welcome comes in the context of this partnership. Those working in early childhood education respond to the changing demographic landscape by valuing and supporting the different cultures represented in their settings.

"E tipu, e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao,

ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha

hei ara mo te tinana,

ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Maori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna,

a ko to wairua ki to Atua,

nana nei nga mea katoa." Sir Apirana Ngata (1949)1


Competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society


He purapura i ruia mai i Rangiātea e kore e ngaro.

A seed sown in Rangiātea will never be lost. 


In Māori tradition the child was a valued member of the Māori worlds before conception, before birth, and before time. They began their journey in Rangiātea, homeland of the gods. Born into this world, they were nurtured like a precious seed to ensure their survival and inculcated with an understanding of their own importance.

Reedy (2013)


A child playing in the harakeke, flax.

Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum (Te Whāriki) sets out the curriculum to be used in New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) settings and provides guidance for its implementation. (See Notice for providers below.)

Underpinning Te Whāriki is the vision that children are:

competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.

Located in Aotearoa New Zealand, this vision implies a society that recognises Māori as tangata whenua, assumes a shared obligation for protecting Māori language and culture, and ensures that Māori are able to enjoy educational success as Māori. Each child is on a unique journey. They come into the world eager to learn and into family, whānau or ‘aiga that have high hopes for them. Teachers, educators and kaiako in ECE settings work together in partnership with the family to realise these hopes.

The expectation is that, in their early years, children will experience a curriculum that empowers them for their journey.

Te Whāriki interprets the notion of curriculum broadly, taking it to include all the experiences, activities and events, both direct and indirect, that occur within the ECE setting. It provides a framework of principles, strands, goals and learning outcomes that foregrounds the mana of the child and the importance of respectful, reciprocal and responsive relationships. This framework provides a basis for each setting to weave a local curriculum that reflects its own distinctive character and values.

Today New Zealand children are growing up in a diverse society that comprises people from a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities. Te Whāriki supports children from all backgrounds to grow up strong in identity, language and culture. In this context, Te Whāriki specifically acknowledges the educational aspirations of Pasifika peoples, who derive their identities from Pacific Island nations with which New Zealand has strong historic and present-day connections.

A curriculum must speak to our past, present and future. As global citizens in a rapidly changing and increasingly connected world, children need to be adaptive, creative and resilient. They need to ‘learn how to learn’ so that they can engage with new contexts, opportunities and challenges with optimism and resourcefulness. For these reasons, Te Whāriki emphasises the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions that support lifelong learning.

About this revision

Te Whāriki was first published by the Ministry of Education in 1996. The document sought to unify a diverse sector around a shared aspiration for children and an agreed framework of principles, strands and goals that teachers, educators and kaiako, children, families and whānau would use to weave their own unique curriculum whāriki.

Highly regarded in New Zealand and internationally acknowledged, Te Whāriki was one of the first national curriculum documents for early childhood education.

This revision is the first in twenty years. It recognises and reflects societal changes, shifts in policy and considerable educational research around curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and practice. Like the original, it has been developed and framed using concepts drawn from te ao Māori.

The curriculum for kōhanga reo is now a document in its own right: Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo. The print editions of Te Whāriki and Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo are published in a single volume, formatted as a flipbook. Both curriculums share the same framework of principles and strands.

The intention is that this update will refresh and enrich early learning curriculum for future generations of children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Notice for providers

All licensed and regulated providers of early childhood education are required to implement the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education curriculum framework, which is published in the New Zealand Gazette. Te Whāriki builds on this framework, providing guidance to support implementation.

When used in this document:

Te Whāriki is the short title for Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum.

Early Childhood Education (ECE) includes all types of licensed and regulated early childhood education provision, for example, education and care centres (including those with special character, such as Montessori and Steiner), kindergartens, playcentres, home-based education and care, hospital-based services and certificated playgroups.

Early learning services includes all of the above and kōhanga reo.

An ECE setting is any place where young children receive education and care. Included are the services referred to above as well as unlicensed and informal playgroups.

Kaiako includes all teachers, educators and other adults, including parents in parent-led services, who have a responsibility for the care and education of children in an ECE setting. In settings where parents have collective responsibility for the curriculum, it is understood that kaiako will also be parents and whānau. Although ECE services use a range of different terms, this document uses kaiako because it conveys the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning, which is valued in this curriculum.

Pasifika is a term that encompasses a diverse range of peoples from the South Pacific region who live in New Zealand and continue to have family and cultural connections to Pacific Island nations, particularly Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu. Pasifika may be recent migrants, long settled in New Zealand, or New Zealand-born.

1. As per the handwritten original, a copy of which hangs in the library of Ngata Memorial College, Ruatoria