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Major emphases (archived)

Student and teacher working at computer.

The New Zealand Curriculum builds on the New Zealand Curriculum Framework (1993). Like earlier curricula, it provides a basis for the policies, programmes, and practices that collectively add up to a young person's experience of school. Its emphasis is on learning that will support all students to lead full and constructive lives.

This resource focuses on features of the curriculum that are either new or given greater emphasis. It is intended primarily for schools that are still in the earlier stages of implementation, but should also have wider applicability. The questions are designed for small-group or whole staff discussion and as prompts for action.


Confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners

The New Zealand Curriculum begins with an aspirational statement describing the kind of attributes and dispositions we want to see in the young people graduating from our schools.


What are the big themes that come through the vision?

Which of these themes are we passionate about in our school? How do school practices demonstrate this passion?

Which of these themes do we not often think about? How might we begin to get them more "on the agenda"?

Identify a current school practice or policy that does not support this vision. How might we do things differently?


The New Zealand Curriculum asks schools to be deliberate about values and prescribes a common but not exclusive core. Schools are also asked to be proactive in encouraging and modelling values and in giving students opportunities to explore values for themselves.


If we, our students, and our parents were asked to list important school values, what might we write? Would we list the values we would like to be known for?

Which of The New Zealand Curriculum  values are already strong school values? How might we give the others greater emphasis?

What steps could we take to gain greater shared ownership of and commitment to our school values?


The principles in The New Zealand Curriculum are the foundations of curriculum decision making. They are particularly relevant when schools are planning, prioritising, or reviewing curriculum. The future focus principle reflects heightened realisation that we need to look at the likely long-term outcomes of present behaviours and activities. The community engagement principle recognises increasing evidence that student achievement is enhanced when schools work in learning-focused partnership with families and whānau.


Would any of The New Zealand Curriculum  principles be challenged by your community? If so, how could we make those principles the subject of constructive debate?

Which of these principles is likely to challenge us most? How could we begin to address this challenge?

How could we get this list of principles off the page, into our minds, and influencing how we view and construct our curriculum?

You have to have content, obviously, but it's the context and meaning that are important. We really try and make sure the students have something significant to take away from what they're learning.

Principal, secondary

Future focus (pages 8,9, and 39)

The curriculum asserts that we owe it to our young people that their schooling does not ignore the big issues that confront our - and their- future:


In what ways do the four future-focused issues mentioned in The New Zealand Curriculum  figure in our school curriculum at present?

What dimensions are there to sustainability? (see page 8 and references in four of the eight learning area statements.)

How can the key competencies contribute to a curriculum that is future-focused?

How can teaching about the past provide future-focused learning opportunities?

We are caretakers of now, but we also need to prepare for the future. If you are focused on the future, decisions made at BOT level need to be aligned with the future. If we don't do this, we sell kids short.

Principal, secondary

Treaty of Waitangi (pages 6,8, and 9)

Our vision is for young people who will work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Māori and Pākehā recognise each other as full Treaty partners, and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring.

Vision, NZC, p.8

The New Zealand Curriculum reiterates and reinforces a principle that was established in earlier national curricula: the Treaty of Waitangi has important implications for our education system and our schools.

The curriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga.

Principles, NZC, p.9


Is the uptake of educational opportunities in our school different for Māori and non-Māori?

If so, how have we tried to address this differential?

How might we better partner with families and whānau to advance the learning of our Māori students?

How do we ensure that all students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo and tikanga Māori?

At its heart, Ka Hikitia is about having a high quality education system that is accessible, equitable and responsive to different learning aspirations, ensuring every education option is a quality choice. Its purpose is to transform the education system to ensure Māori are enjoying educational success as Māori.

Ka Hikitia, Managing for Success, Māori Education Strategy 2008-2011, p. 11

Key competencies

The five key competencies combine a range of skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values that focus on developing dispositions for learning and for life. They are both means and end: people use the key competencies to further their learning and, through their learning, further develop the key competencies.

Schools need to think how they can nurture and develop the competencies within and across learning areas and in the wider school. It is not just what students learn, but how. It is possible to plan for both: to teach "content" while also deliberately and explicitly focusing on particular key competencies.


How do the key competencies challenge us to view curriculum differently?

How can we as a staff, school, and community begin to develop shared understandings of the key competencies?

What opportunities do the key competencies offer us as a school?

We need to make sure that what we are doing in schools with children is going to help them be successful in their lives. You can't say any more that if a child can read and write and do some maths, they're going to be successful. We've got to take a broader view and ask what are the kinds of things we need to do to ensure our children remain engaged with education, contribute to our communities, and make a difference?

Principal, primary


The section on pedagogy recognises that how we teach is part of what we teach. It provides a synthesis of the kinds of approaches that have been shown to consistently have a positive impact on student learning. It also provides a model (teaching as inquiry) that can help teachers conceptualise and improve their practice.


How might pedagogy as described here help realise the vision outlined on page 8?

In what ways can you see pedagogy as described here promoting development of the key competencies?

Go through each of the sections in Effective Pedagogy. For each, what is one implication in your teaching or school?

You can't be a passenger in the new curriculum. You must be an active participant. You are constructing relationships and knowledge, and thinking processes all the time.

Principal, secondary

Educational partnerships (pages 9 and 34)

Community input is essential when establishing a vision and directions for learning. Continued involvement is essential if the vision is to be realised. When parents, whānau, communities, and school have shared aspirations, and understand and value what each other is trying to achieve, opportunities arise for working together to achieve these ends. These opportunities need to be nurtured.


In what ways have we worked with parents and whānau specifically to advance student learning and achievement?

To what extent does our school community understand education as a shared enterprise? How can we foster this understanding?

How can we value and use the cultural knowledge of families?

It's so important to include parents and not keep them in the dark. The board of trustees and parents are gaining a lot of knowledge on how schools really work and what learning is all about.

Principal, primary

Each year, our school/kura reports to parents on achievement in the two core areas of literacy and numeracy. The turnout is always great. We use the reporting back as a platform to discuss and showcase a particular curriculum area or aspect; last year it was poetic writing, with artefacts of children's work on display. Teachers explained the process and the product. This year, we will showcase thinking skills.

It will come as no surprise that the most successful way of notifying parents/whānau about hui is to make personal contact, talk about the purpose of the hui, and then follow up with reminders. Preferably by phone, or - even better - face to face/kanohi ki te kanohi

Principal, primary, quoted in From the New Zealand Curriculum to School Curriculum

Framework vs prescription (page 37)

The New Zealand Curriculum sets the direction for teaching and learning in English-medium New Zealand schools. But it is as a framework rather than a detailed plan.

NZC, p. 37.

The New Zealand Curriculum is a very concise document, particularly when compared to the previous curriculum (for the first time, all parts and levels are contained in a single volume). This is because it is less prescriptive. Content and contexts have deliberately not been specified because it is recognised that individual schools and communities are best placed to determine the content and contexts that will engage their young people in learning.


Are we (as a staff) more worried or excited by the lack of specified content and contexts?

What opportunities does this flexibility give us in terms of planning our programme and utilising community resources and expertise?

I see the curriculum as really just the bones and what schools have to do is put the meat around them, the muscles and then get the heart pumping. This (the NZC) is just the skeleton.

Principal, primary

The fact that the national curriculum specifies only general outcome goals, rather than the path by which to attain them, means that teachers in schools have to work together to develop the curriculum and instructional strategies tailored to the needs of their [students].

Sir Michael Barber, In McKinsey (2007), How the world's best performing school systems come out on top.

You can't just pick up what another school's done. There's no recipe. What you might do will be different to us because of your community, your students, your location. The process of giving effect to the new curriculum is about making it work in your school.

Associate principal, primary

The NZC and NCEA

The achievement objectives for the different learning areas have been reviewed and, in most cases, substantially redefined. Following this redefinition, a major programme is underway to ensure that all curriculum-based standards align with the revised achievement objectives. This programme involves the Ministry, NZQA, and subject associations, which are consulting widely with teacher members. The revised standards will be introduced progressively, beginning with level one in 2011.

Concurrent with the alignment process, the Ministry will develop assessment resources and exemplar materials for standards where there has been significant change, ensuring that teachers have access to materials that are quality assured, readily understood, and fit for purpose.

Published on: 24 Jan 2009