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Kaupapa whakahaere


Content from pages 17–21 of Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum


Tū mai e moko. Te whakaata o ō mātua. Te moko o ō tīpuna.

Stand strong, O moko. The reflection of your parents. The blueprint of your ancestors.


This whakataukī encourages mokopuna to stand strong, proud in the knowledge that they are the embodiment of all those who have gone before them.

 Tamariki playing with two containers

The curriculum is underpinned by four principles: Empowerment | Whakamana, Holistic development | Kotahitanga, Family and community | Whānau tangata, and Relationships | Ngā hononga. These principles are the foundations of curriculum decision making and a guide for every aspect of pedagogy and practice.

"[In Te Whāriki] children are valued as active learners who choose, plan, and challenge. This stimulates a climate of reciprocity, ‘listening’ to children (even if they cannot speak), observing how their feelings, curiosity, interest, and knowledge are engaged in their early childhood environments, and encouraging them to make a contribution to their own learning." Smith (2007)

Content sections

Principle 1 Empowerment | Whakamana

Early childhood curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.

Mā te whāriki e whakatō te kaha ki roto i te mokopuna, ki te ako, kia pakari ai tana tipu.

Tamariki playing with a hose outdoors.

This principle means that every child will experience an empowering curriculum that recognises and enhances their mana and supports them to enhance the mana of others. Viewed from a Māori perspective, all children are born with mana inherited from their tīpuna. Mana is the power of being and must be upheld and enhanced.

To learn and develop to their potential, children must be respected and valued. This means recognising their rights to have their wellbeing promoted and be protected from harm and to experience equitable opportunities for participation and learning and for rest and play.

Kaiako have an important role in encouraging and supporting all children to participate in and contribute to a wide range of enriching experiences. These expand the children’s competence and confidence and, over time, enable them to direct their own lives.

In an empowering environment, children have agency to create and act on their own ideas, develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest them and, increasingly, to make decisions and judgments on matters that relate to them. Play and playfulness are valued and kaiako-initiated experiences are inviting and enjoyable.

Perspectives on empowerment are culturally located, hence kaiako need to seek the input of children and their parents and whānau when designing the local curriculum.

The empowerment principle is reflected in the high expectations, Treaty of Waitangi, inclusion and learning to learn principles found in The New Zealand Curriculum.

Principle 2 Holistic development | Kotahitanga

Early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.

Mā te whāriki e whakaata te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere katoa mō te ako a te mokopuna, mō te tipu o te mokopuna.

Two tamariki sitting next to each other, one looking up to the other.

Human development can be thought of in terms of cognitive (hinengaro), physical (tinana), emotional (whatumanawa), spiritual (wairua), and social and cultural dimensions, but these dimensions need to be viewed holistically, as closely interwoven and interdependent. For Māori the spiritual dimension is fundamental to holistic development because it connects the other dimensions across time and space.

Because children develop holistically, they need a broad and rich curriculum that enables them to grow their capabilities across all dimensions. When focusing on a particular area of learning, kaiako need to consider how this focus relates to and connects with other aspects of learning and how it builds on the children’s strengths.

Every aspect of the context – physical surroundings, emotional state, relationships with others and immediate needs – will affect what children learn from any particular experience. A holistic approach sees the child as a person who wants to learn, the task as a meaningful whole and the whole as greater than the sum of its parts.

It is important that kaiako have knowledge and understanding of the holistic way in which children develop and learn. They should also be aware of the different views that the cultures represented in their ECE setting may have of child development and the role of family and whānau.

The holistic development principle is reflected in The New Zealand Curriculum principles of coherence, Treaty of Waitangi and inclusion.

Principle 3 Family and community | Whānau tangata

The wider world of family and community is an integral part of early childhood curriculum.

Me whiri mai te whānau,te hapū, te iwi, me tauiwi, me ō rātou wāhi nohonga, ki roto i te whāriki, hei āwhina, hei tautoko i te akoranga, i te whakatipuranga o te mokopuna.

Two tamariki playing together

The wellbeing of each child is interdependent with the wellbeing of their kaiako, parents and whānau. Children learn and develop best when their culture, knowledge and community are affirmed and when the people in their lives help them to make connections across settings. It is important that kaiako develop meaningful relationships with whānau and that they respect their aspirations for their children, along with those of hapū, iwi and the wider community.

All cultural groups have beliefs, traditions, and child-rearing practices that place value on specific knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions. Children’s learning and development is enhanced when culturally appropriate ways of communicating are used and when parents, whānau and community are encouraged to participate in and contribute to the curriculum.

Every ECE curriculum will value and build on the knowledge and experiences that children bring with them to the setting. This may involve, for example, making links to children’s everyday experiences and to special events celebrated by families, whānau, and local and cultural communities.

The family and community principle is reflected in The New Zealand Curriculum principles of community engagement, Treaty of Waitangi and cultural diversity.

Principle 4 Relationships | Ngā hononga

Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things.

Mā roto i ngā piringa, i ngā whakahaere i waenganui o te mokopuna me te katoa, e whakatō te kaha ki roto i te mokopuna ki te ako.

A kaiako and tamariki talk together.

Parents and whānau trust that their ECE service will provide an environment where respectful relationships, encouragement, warmth and acceptance are the norm.

It is through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things that children have opportunities to try out their ideas and refine their working theories. For this reason collaborative aspirations, ventures and achievements are valued.

Connections to past, present and future are integral to a Māori perspective of relationships. This includes relationships to tīpuna who have passed on and connections through whakapapa to, for example, maunga, awa, moana, whenua and marae.

Kaiako pay thoughtful attention to providing a facilitating environment that includes a wide range of resources and opportunities to engage with important cultural tools. Cultural tools are both material and psychological. They can be as various as a map, a word or a gesture. Kaiako recognise that increasing ability to access, understand, and use cultural tools expands children’s participation in and contribution to their world.

The relationships principle is reflected in The New Zealand Curriculum principles of inclusion, Treaty of Waitangi and cultural diversity.

Curriculum support content and resources