So one of the big foci of the refresh of Te Whāriki is the change in the aspiration that talks about competent children. Instead of saying to grow up competent, there is a statement that says, “children are competent from the very beginning”. Now that has strong implications for us working in infants and toddlers, because what it means is that children are now positioned as competent from the beginning. So we need to watch out for that competence. It alerts us that we’re not working with a blank slate, but children are competent from the beginning and we need to really be attentive to that competence and nurture it, rather than behave in ways that constrain it, so I think that’s one big change. It’s a small, in terms of words, it’s just three words, but it’s a big philosophical shift and it is inline with research, current research, that more and more is showing us how competent at communicating infants are, if we watch very carefully their bodily movements, their facial expressions, the way their gaze shifts, the way they catch our eye, they way they wait for us to respond so that they have a hint about how they should respond. Should they cry if they fall, or should they say, “Oh”, and keep going. All of that depends on the cues we give them, and that’s very much clear now in research, this competence. So that’s one.
The second shift is the idea that children are born with mana and of course this connects up to this notion of competence, they are born with mana and with rights to protection and promotion of their health and wellbeing. That’s within inverted commas from Te Whāriki. So that anchors the idea of competence and in a Te Ao Māori view of the world. And this signals to us also what my colleague Jenny Ritchie has written about already in The First Years Journal. The fact that there’s a stronger expectation in this version of Te Whāriki that we as teachers, as kaiako, need to be working in a more bicultural way, as well as taking on board the increasingly multicultural nature of our contemporary society.