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Starting the process (archived)

The New Zealand Curriculum document states (Pg 37):

A school curriculum gives effect to the national curriculum in ways that best address the particular needs, interests and circumstances of the school's students and community.

Become familiar with the national curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum is a partner document to Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. These two documents provide a framework for your school curriculum and give effect to the partnership at the core of the Treaty of Waitangi. These put learners and their learning at the centre of all activities, as will your school curriculum.

The national curriculum, along with your collective understandings of the needs, interests and circumstances of your students and community form the basis of your school curriculum.

How you intend to achieve this is the detail provided in your school curriculum.

Related Information

Requirements and regulations area provides more information on this process

Develop shared understandings of curriculum

Reflect on, discuss, and come to shared understandings on what curriculum means to and for your school. Identifying and articulating these will assist in providing clarity around the role and structure of your school curriculum.

Starter definitions

Understandings of what comprises curriculum have evolved over time. Some definitions which reflect the intent of the New Zealand Curriculum are:

"Curriculum is what we do to realise the potential of our students" from Ka Hikitia 

"Curriculum is the sum total of the experiences, activities, and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster learning and development." from Te Whariki 

"What we intend our students to learn" from Ken Robinson

"Provision of learning experiences to realise their identity" from Gilbert and Bolstad


The notion of curriculum as used in the New Zealand Curriculum document is broad and includes by implication all learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom and school environment.

Delve deeper into the New Zealand Curriculum

Historically the focus of curriculum has been on what is 'taught' - the courses offered, or coverage of schemes of work. Current understandings of curriculum are more outcomes based and focus on the learner and the learning occurring.

The New Zealand Curriculum is an outcomes based curriculum, with further elaboratation of supporting learning specifically in the sections:

  • Effective Pedagogy
  • Teaching as Inquiry
  • Purposeful assessment

We live in changing times and so curriculum, by its very nature, needs to be responsive. It acknowledges the past, is based in the 'now' but also needs to be future looking. The New Zealand Curriculum provides guidance in this area in the sections:

  • Future focus issues
  • e-Learning and pedagogy

Learning occurs in social and cultural contexts.Therefore in order to be responsive curriculum needs to reflect not only the voices of prefessionals, but also students, whānau and community.

Through this process of co-construction of curriculum the vision for all young people to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners is more likely to be realised.

Recognising diversity

The national curriculum allows self-managing schools to interpret and make decisions according to their students’ needs, community expectations and access to resources for learning. Aotearoa New Zealand is rich in its diversity and so what might be priorities in one community context may not be the same in another, yet each share some common goals and responsibilities (e.g. literacy learning).

Consequently, the New ZealandCurriculum is a framework within which schools develop the detail for programmes and approaches to learning. It sets broad expectations for all state and state integrated schools without being unduly prescriptive or restrictive.

Curriculum tools

From the NZC to school curriculum: a support pamphlet

The New Zealand Curriculum document also provides guidance in this process.

Related Information

Curriculum design and review area provides more detail on the process

Review Questions

How will you know your school curriculum reflects what your school and community believes is important for your young people?

How will your school curriculum identify how these common beliefs are going to be achieved for all students?

How will your school curriculum be unique to meet the above goals, and at the same time be based on the framework provided by the national curriculum?

Published on: 29 Apr 2009