Te Ao Māori

E ngā maunga, e ngā awa, koutou e whāngai nei i ā tātou kōhungahunga ki ngā wai o te puna mātauranga, mei kore ake koutou hei kawe i te kaupapa nui whakaharahara nei. Mauriora!

The vision that underpins Te Whāriki requires “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" (page 6).

Te Whāriki is a bicultural curriculum. In practice this means that as part of a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, all tamariki experience, learn about, and connect with Te Ao Maori (the Māori world).

Bicultural principles and practices provide the foundation for promoting equitable educational success for tamariki Māori – with kaiako responding to the values, knowledge, and strengths tamariki Māori bring to their learning.

Māori learners achieving educational success as Māori starts with kaiako understanding Te Ao Māori as a foundation for designing learning environments with and for Māori tamariki and their whānau that:

  • are positive, relevant, and responsive to their aspirations as Māori and citizens of the world
  • enable them to see, feel, and hear their culture around them – feel connected to the service.

The essence of the Māori world view is relationships, not just between people – whānau, hapū, iwi – but also between the spiritual world and the natural world.

Everyone and everything is traced and explained through whakapapa, the ancestral layers that contribute to the “people, places, and things” of the present and into the future.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini.

I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents, and strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors.

Understanding the significance of whakapapa as a taonga in Te Ao Māori brings responsibilities and obligations for all kaiako with regards to the learning and wellbeing of tamariki Māori – obligations that include:

  • fostering their unique potential and inherent capabilities as Māori living in Te Ao Māori
  • respecting and promoting the use of te reo (with attention to correct pronunciation)
  • productive partnerships with family/whānau about aspirations and learning.

Learner focus

One way kaiako enact a Māori world view in practice is by paying attention to attributes or traits familiar and important to Māori. Te Whatu Pōkeka “highlights rangatiratanga, whakatoi, manaakitanga, and aroha as learning dispositions that are valued in Te Ao Māori” (page 23).

Below are some examples and strategies of how kaiako may recognise and support these through cultural narrative and using Māui as a mentor.


The disposition of rangatiratanga is seen through the child’s determination, problem-solving skills, persistence, courage, and assertiveness.

Māui led his whānau by having the courage to think outside of the box to solve problems that hindered their progress.

In Te Whāriki the learning outcome “te rangatiratanga” involves children's contribution to “become increasingly capable of recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn.”

Ways tamariki demonstrate rangatiratanga in everyday activities and play may include:

Talking positively about their whānau.

Standing up for themselves or for a friend in a strong but peaceful way.

Showing pride when they have accomplished something.

Sharing waiata or karakia from home.

Kaiako build on this disposition by:

Ensuring that resources reflect all children’s cultures and home settings.

Championing equity and recognising courage in learning stories.

Identifying the attributes a child has shown to persevere at something.

Providing leadership opportunities for tamariki to share prior knowledge in a variety of ways, for example, directly from the child, from a whānau member, or by the kaiako sharing a learning story about the child.


Also referred to as haututū, whakatoi means cheekiness, curiosity, and confidence. Māui was renowned for being cheeky and curious and he is often called Māui the trickster.

These dispositions are what Māui used to obtain the jaw bone that he snuck onto his brothers’ waka to fish up Te Ika a Māui (The North Island).

For Māori, cheekiness is what helps tamariki to explore, be curious, and socialise. The humour of whakatoi is also highly regarded in Te Ao Māori for both social and speaking skills. People who are adept in this skill can lighten a difficult situation without losing focus.

Ways tamariki demonstrate whakatoi in everyday activities and play may include:

Pēpi acting on their curiosity in objects around the room by wriggling themselves towards them.

Moving things between areas – normally not allowed, for example, bringing sand inside to the family play area.

Tamariki using resources in an innovative way, for example, a toddler stacking objects by the gate in order to “escape” to the over 2s' area.

A toddler appearing to enjoy the response to kicking over a friend's block tower.

Kaiako build on this disposition by:

Providing the freedom for pēpi to practise their physical skills in safe surroundings, while offering responsive encouragement.

Guiding children’s “cleverness” towards innovation, for example, finding ways to allow this to happen or using their play to question why this rule is there in the first place.

Valuing the child’s curiosity and cheekiness by providing flexibility in the curriculum to give the child what they are striving for or taking time to carefully explain “the why” of the rules.

Valuing when tamariki test their limits and boundaries, while supporting them to be safely corrected by their peers.


Manaaki is derived from the word mana, meaning authority or prestige, and aki meaning to encourage or induce. Therefore, manaaki is the act of lifting and supporting those around you.

Manaaki is another trait of Māui who, while lifting his own mana, also ensured that his people would benefit, for example, by hiding the ability to make fire in different trees.

Te Whāriki discusses manaakitanga in relation to kaiako showing care as well as teaching tamariki to care for others and to care for their environment.

Ways tamariki demonstrate manaaki in everyday play and activities may include:

Older tamariki wanting to help feed younger pēpi.

Tamariki role-playing mealtimes.

Tamariki showing interest in plants, insects, or animals.

Tamariki engaging in pretend play around family roles, for example, parent – child – pet.

Kaiako can build on this disposition by:

Modelling respectful caregiving practices while also providing opportunities for tamariki to take responsibility for themselves and others.

Ensuring that actual mealtimes are unhurried, allow for conversations amongst tamariki, and provide opportunities for tamariki to contribute to setting the table and serving the food and drink.

Developing their own ability to integrate domain knowledge into the curriculum, for example, bringing kaitiaki Māori into science and environmental education for sustainability.

Speaking positively with tamariki about each child’s whānau and culture, ensuring that there are resources such as posters and pukapuka that reflect a diverse range of whānau, as well as opportunities for children to care for pets.


Te Whatu Pōkeka defines aroha as respect, as well as the loyalty and commitment of love in a whānau context.

After being nurtured by the aroha of his uncle, the yearning to connect to the love of his immediate whānau led Māui on a long journey to seek out his mother who thought he had been stillborn.

Kaiako help tamariki understand how aroha feels (the lasting love of whānau connections) when they provide opportunities for tamariki to enact aroha and tell them how they have seen this.

Ways tamariki demonstrate aroha in everyday play and activities may include:

A child leading waiata time or crossing a balance beam for the first time.

Toddlers dressing and undressing themselves.

Tamariki working out a problem that they have with each other.

Pēpi crying when put to sleep in the cot.

Kaiako can build on this disposition by:

Giving a child many opportunities and time to be courageous.

Trusting a child to achieve something that may be difficult, not doing it for them – prioritising time for these important learning moments.

Providing time and space for tamariki to first try and resolve the issue – acknowledging and identifying children’s feelings and providing guidance if needed to come to a resolution.

Holding a baby until they sleep, as was done traditionally, so that they can feel your aroha by being held close.

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.

The above examples show how a Māori lens on everyday play can recognise dispositions that are important to a child’s development in kaupapa Māori and support educational success for Māori as Māori. While these are the dispositions that are named in Te Whāriki, there are many others. These are identified through kaiako collaborating with whānau to seek shared understandings of the aspirations they have for tamariki.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa.

Let us keep close together, not far apart.

Useful resources

Bicultural competence in early childhood education

A 2012 research project in which authors Ngaroma M. Williams, Mary-Elizabeth Broadley, and Keri Lawson-Te Aho canvassed the perceptions of bicultural competency of both Māori and non Māori, kaiako working in early childhood education.

ERO effective practice and evaluation reports

These reports provide information, effective practice examples, and reflective questions to assist services to improve educational outcomes for Māori learners.

Ka Hikitia

This publication provides informative background material and a rationale for the national emphasis on improving outcomes for Māori.

Kei Tua o Te Pae – Book 3

This book looks at bicultural assessment practices and how these can embody the principle of partnership fundamental to Te Tiriti. It provides a number of exemplars highlighting different pathways towards bicultural assessment and outcomes for learners.

Resource kit for student teachers

A resource kit of ideas and practices to support the teaching of Māori values through te reo and tikanga.

Seeing your school through the eyes of Māori parents

In this video Janelle Riki-Waaka challenges kaiako to "put on a different hat, maybe another pair of glasses and become the parent of a Māori student".

Tātaiako: Cultural competencies of teachers of Māori learners

This New Zealand Teachers Council publication provides indicators and outcomes to support Māori learners achieving education success as Māori. The focus is on creating a context for learning in which there are genuine, productive relationships between kaiako, learners, whānau, iwi, and communities. It is designed to embed Kaupapa Māori competencies for all learners.

Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti, 2016 Winner, Excellence in Teaching & Learning

This video tells the story of one service’s curriculum design development based on Ngāti Poroutanga which later lead them to winning the Prime Minister’s award.

Te whatu pōkeka

This resource explores cultural contexts and practices that puts the concept of an empowered Māori child at the heart of understandings about learning and assessment.

Tōku Anō Ao – My very own world

A collection of 15 papers written by pouako who teach Te Hā o te Iwi: Mātauranga Māori Teaching and Learning and Te Hā o te Manu Kura: The Teacher as Emergent Leader in Te Rito Maioha’s Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) degree programme. Edited by Ngaroma Williams, Janis Carroll-Lind, and Lee Smith (2015).

Addressing Pākehā paralysis with non-stupid optimism

In this video Alex Hotere-Barnes discusses his research into addressing Pākehā paralysis. He talks about how acknowledging and working through it is a really important way of ensuring that our learning systems are more inclusive and socially just.