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Te Whāriki: Two pathways

Content from page 71 of Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum


Titiro whakamuri kia anga whakamua.

Look to the past in order to move forward.


Highly regarded in New Zealand and internationally acknowledged, Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum (1996) was one of the first national curriculum documents for early childhood education. Significantly, it was developed using a partnership approach as envisaged by te Tiriti o Waitangi. Given the cultural context of the time, it was a challenge to create a curriculum that would embody this partnership and fulfil the vision of leading sector thinkers.

The development of Te Whāriki was led by Dr Helen May and Margaret Carr (University of Waikato) and Dr Tamati Muturangi Reedy and Tilly Te Koingo Reedy (Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust). As part of this process Carr and May consulted widely with the early childhood sector while Reedy and Reedy engaged in widespread consultation hui with kōhanga reo whānau, kaumātua and leading Māori educationalists.

These consultations led to the conceptualisation of the curriculum in terms of ngā kaupapa whakahaere (principles) and ngā taumata whakahirahira (strands), and to the use of the whāriki as a central metaphor. Each principle and strand was given dual Māori and English names which were not however synonyms as they had their origins in different world views. On behalf of the kōhanga reo movement Reedy and Reedy gifted the principles, strands and metaphor to the wider ECE community, who joined them as kaitiaki of this taonga.

Twenty years on, it is appropriate that Te Whāriki be refreshed: the social, cultural and educational context is now markedly different and the early learning sector has a wealth of further practice, thinking and research on which to draw.

The updating process has left the principles and strands untouched. They continue to provide a sound framework for defining two distinct curriculum pathways: one bicultural, derived from a synthesis of traditional Māori thinking and sociocultural theorising and one indigenous, each with its own pedagogy. The Ministry of Education chose the flipbook format to showcase this unique bicultural, one-framework-two-paths curriculum and to make it clear that both pathways are of equal status and have mana in their own right.

Neither part of the combined document is a translation of the other.

Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum is for use by all early childhood education services; Te Whāriki a te Kōhanga Reo is for use in all kōhanga reo affiliated to Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust.

Kōhanga reo kaiako and whānau will find the refreshed document exemplifies the authenticity of the kaupapa, te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, and provides guidance for kaiako to support implementation that strengthens Māori-medium pathways for learning. Those in ECE services will find a greater emphasis on language, culture and identity and increased guidance on what it means to weave a bicultural curriculum.

As the introduction to the original version of Te Whariki concluded, “This is a curriculum for early childhood care and education in New Zealand. In early childhood education settings, all children should be given the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritages of both partners to te Tiriti o Waitangi. The curriculum reflects this partnership in text and structure.”