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What our children learn and how they learn – key competencies and learning areas

To become familiar with the key competencies and learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum, by:

  • sharing with parents/caregivers student work relating to the development of the key competencies
  • reading and discussing key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum
  • reading and discussing learning areas in The New Zealand Curriculum
  • making connections with what learning means to participants
  • sharing what we know about how we ourselves learn best.


Welcome the parents and families. Allow time for chat and perhaps offer refreshments.

Ask students to share some of their work relating to the key competencies and learning areas. They could talk about why they think they learn those things at school, in relation to their aspirations for the future. Encourage parents and whānau to ask the students questions and to show appreciation.

Key competences and curriculum learning areas

  • The key competencies, like the learning areas, are an essential part of the curriculum.
  • The key competencies are the key to learning in every learning area and in our changing society.
  • The learning areas, like the key competencies, enable and empower students to achieve in a world in which knowledge and technology are constantly changing.
  • All learning should make use of the potential connections that exist between learning areas and that link learning areas to the values and key competencies.
  • Each school shapes its own curriculum to draw on the opportunities available in the local environment and community.

Suggested approach

1. Whole group

Briefly describe the purpose of this workshop: "to become familiar with the key competencies and learning areas of The New Zealand Curriculum".

Briefly revisit Vision: What we want for our young people statement from The New Zealand Curriculum.

2. Small group

In each small group, the lead parent asks,

  • What did you learn at school?
  • Were these kinds of knowledge and skills useful to you, and if so, when – in work? In other experiences?
  • Is this the same as what your children are learning?
  • In what areas did you feel less empowered by your school learning?
  • How do you feel about what your children are learning?

As a group, make one list of knowledge (information) and another list of skills that you believe everyone needs to learn.

The lead teacher explains that the national curriculum identifies two main kinds of learning, learning competencies and learning within learning areas, both of which include knowledge, attitudes, and skills.

3. Whole group

The larger group reconvenes to read about and discuss the key competencies. You may wish to watch the video: What are key competencies

Key competencies

Ask everyone to read the text for one of the key competencies and then explain that competency to their neighbour, giving an example of when they might use it.

As a group, discuss each key competency, recording main points under each heading, and share examples of when it is used, in school and in adult life.

Ask the group: "Why do you think The New Zealand Curriculum includes key competencies?"

Record the group’s responses.

Learning areas

Read the first two paragraphs on page 16 of The New Zealand Curriculum. Brainstorm occasions for using information, skills, and values or attitudes, from each of the bulleted learning areas, in school and in adult life.

Hand out copies of The New Zealand Curriculum and/or Learning areas: Important for a broad, general education. Look together at page 17, read the descriptions of the eight learning areas, and discuss any questions from group members. Talk about any changes in the learning areas since participants were at school – there are more big ideas, less emphasis on specific knowledge sets, and fewer, more generic, achievement objectives.

As a group, choose one learning area to follow through the curriculum document.

Choose a level that is relevant for the group members’ children. Select an objective at that level and discuss any opportunities that the local environment and community offer that would enable students to meet that objective in a relevant and engaging context. Link this to the curriculum principle of community engagement. Consider also the principles relating to the Treaty of Waitangi and cultural diversity and their implications for all students.

Gather data

At the end of the workshop, invite group members to reflect on the experience. They could share:

  • their general response to the workshop
  • highlights of the workshop or issues that are priorities for them
  • matters that they would like the group or the school to consider.

Keep it short and simple – about 5 minutes is fine.

Teachers could note anything new they have learned in this workshop about the parents’ views on what students learn and how. Parents could comment on any new understandings (or ask any questions) about what teachers do. Both groups could reflect on what the students said.

Farewell and follow-up steps

Thank the group for coming and for sharing. This may involve a whakataukī, waiata, or karakia. Convey a sense of enthusiasm and show appreciation of everyone’s input and commitment.

Reinforce the idea that home and school are a partnership in which both partners need some understanding of the key competencies, and the learning areas in order to support students’ success at school.

Allow time for people to chat and share informally.

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Published on: 01 Apr 2020