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Direction and emphasis (archived)


The purpose of The New Zealand Curriculum is to set the direction for student learning in our schools and to provide guidance for schools as they give shape to its intent by the actions they take within their particular contexts. The New Zealand Curriculum refers to this process as curriculum design and review.

Curriculum design and review should be thought of as a broad process that is led by the school but that involves listening to and taking account of the ideas and concerns of students, families, whānau, and the wider community. These different groups will want to know some of the document’s key messages – particularly those that involve shifts in direction or emphasis.

Four key emphases


The focus of The New Zealand Curriculum is on students and their success. Teaching and
 learning are attuned to their needs and aspirations. Teaching and learning should deliberately build on the experiences that students bring to school and should expand the possibilities that students see for themselves.

Review questions image.
  • What does success mean for our students? How do we discuss success with them? How does our curriculum support their success?
  • What do we know about the circumstances in which our students live? … about their world? … about their needs?
  • How can our curriculum use to advantage the fact that young people learn from
     different people and in different contexts?


The values and the key competencies have moved to share centre stage with the learning areas. The competencies are fundamental to students’ success in every area of life, both present and future. Values largely determine how students “live” the competencies and how the decisions they make impact on others.

Assessing key competencies: Why would we? How could we? also includes reflective questions.

Review questions image.
  • How can we develop the values through our school’s curriculum?
  • How can we develop the key competencies through our school’s curriculum?


The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that understandings about knowledge, and about how knowledge is formed and acquired, are changing. Students need to know what they are learning and why. They need opportunities to build and examine knowledge, to engage fully with new learning, and to use their new knowledge or learning in unfamiliar contexts.

Review questions image.
  • What kinds of knowledge help our students to understand and interact with our twenty-first-century world?
  • How does our school’s curriculum help students to construct, examine, and use this knowledge?
  • How well does our school’s curriculum reflect the essential nature of each learning area?

Refer to and consider the learning area statements in Learning areas.

  • How does our curriculum enable students to explore relationships of knowledge across learning areas?


The New Zealand Curriculum emphasises the importance of effective pedagogy and inquiry into teaching and learning practice: schools need to identify those students for whom current practice is not having the desired impact and to actively investigate alternative practice that could be more effective. Teachers can use evidence from research linked to student outcomes and from their own and colleagues’ past practice to design effective teaching and learning opportunities.

Review questions image.
  • What are our school’s particular strengths in supporting the learning of every student effectively?
  • What evidence do we use to identify our school curriculum’s effectiveness in supporting the sustained progress of all students?
  • What are our school’s priorities for future action to support the learning of every student?

Next - Engaging the community

Published on: 18 Dec 2007