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The cultural diversity curriculum principle

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Rae Si'ilata, lecturer in bi-literacy at Auckland University, answers the question "What is the cultural diversity principle?" This film encourages leaders and teachers to consider how cultural diversity is celebrated and reflected at their own schools.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

The cultural diversity principle

"The curriculum reflects New Zealand’s cultural diversity and values the histories and traditions of all its people.”

The New Zealand Curriculum, p. 9

  • In the film clip, Rae asks "Is the valued knowledge of the home and of communities being represented in the valued knowledge of school?" Is this happening at your school?
  • How does your school recognise and value the linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge that learners bring to your school? What does this look like in action?
  • How do you go about finding out who your students are and what they bring to the classroom? How can you enhance these connections in a learning context?

Have you seen ...

Smiling children.

Cultural diversity
This section of NZC Online draws together research, tools, digital resources, and examples to support schools as they consider the cultural diversity principle.


Well I think the cultural diversity principle in the New Zealand Curriculum recognises and values the linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge that all learners bring to the teaching and learning situation. It recognises that we in Aotearoa live in a linguistically and culturally diverse nation; and that in order to meet the needs of these learners in their teaching and learning programmes, we need to be able to connect with, and build on the linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge that they bring to their learning.

Funds of knowledge are the linguistic and cultural capital that is nested within the family. So what does that mean? It recognises that even for New Zealand born linguistically diverse communities they will still have very strong connections with their places of origin. They will still have the stories that are important to the family. They will still, even if they don’t have productive competence in the heritage language of the family, they will still often have receptive competence, and the values and principles or ways of living that are of value to them are still very much part of the family culture.

School leaders and teachers need to have a view of adding to, rather than replacing what students are coming in with. So this additive rather than subtractive view, promotes the idea that who they are and what they bring is absolutely fundamental to the teaching and learning process. So it’s going beyond the school culture level, although that’s also very important, but it’s actually taking it right into the teaching and learning programmes.

I think even in schools that are largely monocultural we recognise that we live in a linguistically diverse and culturally diverse world. So, even though their local community might be fairly monocultural, the digital world that they live in is not; and so they are learning from people and other students from all over the world. And so we need to promote that valuing of linguistic and cultural diversity. We need to, it’s almost like developing an inquiry habit of mind, saying well, I don’t know a lot about this, I want to learn more about it and I want to learn from you. And I think it’s a really important principle for teachers too. To work from as well. Teachers don’t need to be expert in all of the linguistic and cultural knowledge of the students that they work with. They just need to develop that valuing and inquiry habit of mind, where they deliberately ask questions of their students, where they say, "I don’t know very much about that, can you tell me about that? Can you be the teacher in this situation and teach all of us?" So that’s a wonderful example of ako and of tuakana-teina, so that’s recognising that some students are, can be put in the position of the tuakana, they can be the teacher and the teacher can be the learner. And when we create learning opportunities like that for children we see that their identities are being represented at school and therefore they want to buy into school.

For students from linguistic and cultural minority groups, if they never see their linguistic and cultural knowledge represented in the school it’s often when they don’t want to participate. Schools need to think about what is the valued knowledge of their curriculum. And whose knowledge is being represented within the valued knowledge of school. So whose knowledge is being validated through all of the learning areas, and through all of the curriculum that is being presented at school. Is the valued knowledge of the home and of communities being represented in the valued knowledge of school? That’s a really important question, and critical inquiry that school leaders need to have with their teachers, to ensure that there is not one perspective being presented through the curriculum that they are teaching at school.

Published on: 21 Apr 2015