Introducing Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā

Issue: Volume 101, Number 5

Posted: 27 April 2022
Reference #: 1HATph

The first instalment of The New Zealand Curriculum refresh and the redesign of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa has arrived. 

The images in this article show students exploring a significant part of Aotearoa New Zealand's histories.

The images in this article show students exploring a significant part of Aotearoa New Zealand's histories.

The final content for new Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā was released in March 2022 to give kura and schools an opportunity to engage with the materials prior to implementation from 2023. 

The new curriculum content will support ākonga to be critical thinkers and understand the past in order to make sense of the present and inform our future. It will incorporate learning from a range of perspectives at a local and national level. 

This broadening of the curriculum to include challenging aspects of our history is welcomed by Dr Hana O’Regan, Tumu Whakarae of CORE Education. 

“When our knowledge of history is restricted, we restrict ourselves to having empathy, almost putting boxes around certain conversations because of the anxiety of feeling bad about them. And you don’t grow in that environment. You don’t grow in terms of your understanding of self, you don’t know how to learn from the past, so we, in the end, keep on repeating the same mistakes.”

Wally Penetito, retired professor of Māori Education at Victoria University of Wellington, agrees. “I just think if people know themselves historically, as well as contemporary, they’re better off because they kind of understand where they come from and how things happened, that it didn’t just happen yesterday, that it’s something that goes back in history.”

Hana adds that this has been a long time coming. 

“We’ve got an incredible opportunity in front of us, an incredible opportunity that is the biggest opportunity that I’ve seen in my lifetime within the education system and as a community to grow up, to grow up as a country, to stand up as a country, and to be brave enough to really, truly understand who we are.”

Exploring NZ History

A long journey

The process to achieve this new opportunity began in 2018 when a Ministerial Advisory Group was formed to provide advice on strengthening the design and use of local curriculum, as well as improving ākonga progress and achievement. The Advisory Group identified focus areas for Māori medium and English medium settings which shaped the recommendations to Cabinet, including addressing aspects of trust and equity.

These recommendations supported the development of ‘new strategies and responses to create the conditions to empower all ākonga and their whānau to thrive in a changing world, and to meet the challenge of addressing educational inequity.’

In September 2019, in response to the recommendations along with calls from interest groups, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced the need to update Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and The New Zealand Curriculum to ensure equitable outcomes and that it is fit-for-purpose, with a stronger focus on the wellbeing, identities, languages and cultures of all ākonga. 

As part of this, Minister Hipkins says that Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories would be taught in all schools and kura from 2022, which has now been revised to 2023 to give schools and kura more time to engage with curriculum content. 

Minister Hipkins states: “When we’re doing something as significant as rolling out new curriculum content, we want to make sure that schools can do that properly, that the teachers have got time to prepare because obviously, they’ve got new lesson plans, new curriculum resources.”


The next stage in the process occurred in 2020 when two Curriculum Writing Groups drafted content for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories in The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Takanga o Te Wā in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. This content was subjected to three types of testing that was undertaken in 2021. 

The first testing was a survey on the draft content which provided responses from 157 kura and schools, or groups of kura/schools. Ten wānanga gave feedback on Te Takanga o Te Wā. 

The second means of testing was trialling the draft content, which was carried out by teachers, kaiako and leaders in around 60 schools and 20 kura.  

The third testing used a public online survey that was available alongside the draft curriculum content, which received 4,491 survey responses and 488 submissions. Feedback was also received via face-to-face engagements. 

CORE Education was part of the classroom trialling and was provided opportunities to contribute to the feedback. 

I’ve been able to put some things on the table and challenge, for instance, the role that iwi have in terms of the process to develop the curriculum, and about how their stories have been incorporated into the process, and where the thinking has been,” explains Hana.

Reports on recommended changes were developed by the Ministry of Education, members of the Peer Review Group (subgroup of Ohu Matua), members of the Social Sciences Writing Group (for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories), and He Whakaruruhau (for both Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā). After these recommendations were agreed upon, writers, comprising community groups, curriculum writing groups, and historians from Ohu Matua, made changes to the draft content. This was followed by further consultation with He Whakaruruhau.

In 2022, the Government finalised Te Takanga o Te Wā and Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum content for publication, leading to the release in March.


Strength of the new structure

According to Hana, the new curriculum allows for a stronger sense of identity and belonging. 

“Knowing our histories, learning our histories, teaching our histories, means that we can start to challenge and erode the misconceptions, the untruths that we have heard as a society for many generations now, that also influence the way that we engage with each other, that we think about each other, the perceptions that we have about ‘other’ and about ourselves,” she says.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories is structured around levels as phases of learning in a progressions model. This gives clarity about the direction of learning and the key outcomes that matter across the phases. It pieces the learning together so that the progress described in The New Zealand Curriculum is easily seen. The content for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories covers the first four phases of learning from Year 1 until Year 10.

There are three elements to the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum content: Understand, Know, and Do. 

These elements are not separate, and do not operate in a sequence. Instead teachers weave the elements to create learning that is deep and meaningful to the contexts of their own classrooms. 

‘Understand’ relates to the big ideas surrounding Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories that connect students to their learning to help ensure that the learning is not just important but also relevant to the ākonga and their whānau and community.  

‘Know’ is exploring rich contexts that come from stories, events, and people from local rohe, hapū, iwi so that learners can help to understand what has shaped the world that they live in. 

‘Do’ involves thinking critically about the past and interpreting stories from it. It allows the students to consider and take actions based on valid information from various sources that have multiple perspectives.  

Te Takanga o Te Wā is designed as a new whenu (strand) for the learning that takes place under the Tikanga ā-Iwi wāhanga ako. Currently there are four strands, Te Whakaritenga Pāpori me te Ahurea, Te Ao Hurihuri, Te Wāhi me te Taiao, and Ngā Mahinga Ohaoha. 

Te Takanga o Te Wā will make a fifth strand and is based on He Tamaiti Hei Raukura, a conceptual framework composed of four core aspects that cannot be left to chance.

These are recognising ākonga as ‘he uri whakaheke’ (as a descendant), ‘he tangata’ (as a person), ‘he puna kōrero’ (as a communicator), and ‘he ākonga’ (as a learner).

He Tamaiti Hei Raukura aims for ākonga to develop skills and abilities that will enable them to succeed in a changing world, by immersing Māori knowledge in the Māori world.


There are two ways in which ākonga will explore history. The first is ākonga learning about themselves and their world. The second is exploring connections to the wider world. The skills learnt will support ākonga as uri whakaheke (descendants), who bring with them their own unique backgrounds and ancestral stories and will help ākonga to understand their own identity as Māori in Aotearoa. 

The new curriculum will benefit both Māori and non-Māori by exploring areas not previously discussed within kura and schools, Wally explains. 

“The first schools that Māori went to, everyone, all the students, knew Māori, te reo. But the first thing that schools set out to do was to cut it out, to stop it. Schools played a real important role in that whole business of cultural denial of forcing people to hide it, or to eventually to forget it. So, we do have Māori in today’s world who don’t really know much about this stuff either. It’s not just Pākehā who don’t know this stuff, many Māori don’t either.”

The critical inquiry that is part of the new curriculum will help ākonga evaluate their history and their place in the world which will allow them to become better citizens – not just of Aotearoa but globally. 

Hana says, “I believe understanding our Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories, understanding who we are in connecting us to our tūrangawaewae, to our place in time, understanding the historical circumstances that have influenced who we are, the interactions, the cultures, the languages, the space, the environment – that creates a much stronger person at an individual level, or stronger community at a local level, and at a national level – that will then help us develop that confidence within a global environment.”


Schools and kura are encouraged to investigate the newly released resources 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:58 pm, 27 April 2022

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