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Cultural diversity


Designing a culturally responsive curriculum

This blog focuses on creating a classroom and school environment that is inclusive of, and responsive to, cultural diversity – as guided by the cultural diversity principle. The blog offers a survey, reflective questions, and examples of effective practice, to help you think about ways that you can effectively cater for cultural diversity in your school.

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

The New Zealand Curriculum, p. 9

Cultural Diversity is one of eight guiding principles in the New Zealand Curriculum that is enacted in New Zealand classrooms every day of the week. In the 2013 Census, over 230 different ethnicities were shown to be part of the New Zealand population. Your school will have representatives of at least a few of these communities. So how best can you teach about and for culturally diverse students?

What does the cultural diversity principle look like in schools?

In 2011 the Education Review Office gathered data from over 200 schools to evaluate the extent to which the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum were evident in schools’ curricula. The resulting 2012 ERO report describes how the cultural diversity principle can be enacted in school and classroom curriculum.

In schools and classrooms where cultural diversity was acknowledged and celebrated:

  • teachers were aware of students’ different cultural identities
  • students’ cultural contexts were incorporated into teaching and learning programmes and into the classroom environment
  • teachers provided practical opportunities for all students to be proud and share their languages and cultures through cultural groups, special events, and school festivals that celebrated cultural difference
  • all students experienced learning contexts from multiple cultures
  • there were clear expectations in schools’ charters for celebration of diversity, stating the right of all children to feel culturally safe
  • boards that had developed such charters sought representation from all the cultures of their school community, and staff were representative of many cultures.

You can use these statements to reflect on your own practice.

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NZC Update 3 – The role of the principles
This Update explores the role of the curriculum principles in designing and reviewing the school curriculum.

Where are you at with the cultural diversity principle?

Cultural diversity - Getting started.

The cultural diversity starter survey can be used to help you consider how you are currently enacting the cultural diversity principle, and identify next steps. The survey is available as a Word document download. Marking the tick boxes will help you to identify where you sit in relation to each statement and create an action plan for improvement.

The survey can be used in a range of ways, for example:

  • by the entire school community, including students, parents, families, whānau, and iwi to identify areas of strength and future actions
  • with teachers to generate discussion and classroom actions
  • by school leaders to inform strategic planning.

Aspects of cultural diversity

We have unpacked three aspects of the starter survey, to give you an idea of how you might like to unpack these statements when discussing them with your staff and school community.

Do we have a physical environment that reflects the cultures of all students and the cultures of our wider community and country?

Reflecting the different cultures of your school community within the school environment provides students and families a tangible reminder of the school's commitment to cultural diversity.  More than just being symbolic, it creates an inclusive atmosphere and a sense of shared ownership. The way language or images are used, or the way different open spaces are presented around the school creates a sense of cultural connection for the students and school community.

Guiding questions - He patai

  • How could do this in your school context? 
  • How could you adapt or enhance existing spaces?
  • In what ways can you encourage the school community to help drive this initiative?

Engaging Pasifika families – Owairaka School builds a fale
Staff at Owairaka School went on a professional development trip to Samoa to help them to understand the culture of their Samoan students. This story tells how the community subsequently worked together to bring an element of Samoan culture to the school in the construction of a traditional fale.

In what ways do you provide opportunities for parents of different cultural origins to share their valued knowledge and expertise at the school as vital components of student learning?

The School Leadership and Student Outcomes BES found that the most effective home-school partnerships are those in which: parents and teachers are involved together in children's learning; teachers make connections to students' lives; and family and community knowledge is incorporated into the curriculum and teaching practices. All parents want what is best for their children. Making your school an inclusive place that welcomes parents and whānau, acknowledging and celebrating diversity, and involving the community in the learning and teaching at your school is an important part of enacting the cultural diversity principal.  

Guiding questions - He patai

  • How do you plan for parent involvement in the classroom and wider school learning programme?
  • In what ways do you encourage more spontaneous involvement?
  • How do you involve parents in the design of a culturally diverse curriculum? Once involved, what are some ways you could sustain their involvement?

EDtalk – Pasifika Parent Group
Manu Fa'aea-Semeatu, HOD Performing Arts at Rutherford College in 2012, discusses her school's website page for Pasifika parents and her ways of engaging Pasifika fanau in the learning journey of senior secondary students. She also discusses her support across schools for Pasifika student achievement.

How can we build a school curriculum that is culturally relevant for all students, acknowledging different knowledge, languages, and world values?

Students learn best when their cultures and languages are recognised and reflected in school and classroom curricula, and where there is a close match between the cultural contexts of home and school. Building a curriculum like this requires knowledge of the school community, an environment of cultural responsiveness, and support for teachers.

Guiding questions - He patai

  • In what ways is your school curriculum culturally responsive?
  • How could you include the students and school community in a process of curriculum review around the cultural diversity principal?
  • What kinds of support and learning do your staff need to  develop a culturally responsive school curriculum and provide a culturally responsive learning environment?

A new environment, a new outlook – North East Valley Normal School curriculum day
John McKenzie, principal from North East Valley Normal School, explains the benefits of holding a curriculum development day at Puketeraki Marae and describes how staff were supported to incorporate a Māori worldview into their planning.

Digital Communities 

These communities all provide discussion, and the sharing of ideas and research, for New Zealand educators engaging in the cultural diversity principle

Learning and Change Networks New Zealand on Vimeo
A group of schools/kura and communities working together to grow capability and to accelerate achievement of priority learners in ways that recognise cultural diversity and that grows innovative and effective 21st century learning environments.

cultural diversity