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Cultural diversity principle

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

The cultural diversity principle is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. The cultural diversity principle calls for schools and teachers to deliver a curriculum that:

  • reflects our linguistically and culturally diverse nation
  • affirms students’ different cultural identities
  • incorporates students' cultural contexts into teaching and learning programmes
  • is responsive to diversity within ethnic groups
  • helps students understand and respect diverse viewpoints, values, customs, and languages.


Students and teacher looking at a globe.

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The cultural diversity curriculum principle
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.

Cultural diversity in the classroom
Rae Siʻilata, lecturer in bi-literacy at Auckland University, describes what the cultural diversity principle might look like in the classroom. She urges educators to create opportunities for all students to bring their valued knowledge into the school.

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Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020–2030
The Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020–2030 maps the Government’s commitment to transforming outcomes for Pacific learners and families. The vision for this Action Plan is "diverse Pacific learners and families are safe, valued, and equipped to achieve their education aspirations". It sets out five key shifts that have been prioritised by Pacific communities, and a series of associated actions as the first step to achieving this vision. 

NZC Curriculum icon.

Cultural diversity and inclusion 
2012 report by the Education Review Office notes a close link between the cultural diversity principle and the inclusion principle. The report states that both of these principles require teachers to value students as individuals and celebrate the diversity that they bring. Inclusive practices include valuing the cultural diversity of all individual students.


Cultural diversity spotlight
Use this spotlight to help you affirm your students’ different cultural identities and incorporate their cultural contexts into teaching and learning programmes.  

Cultural diversity checklist
This checklist can be used by schools to help them consider how they are currently enacting the cultural diversity principle, and identify next steps. The checklist is available as a Word document download. By marking the tick boxes, schools will be able to identify where they sit in relation to each statement and create an action plan for improvement.

Word 2007 icon. Cultural diversity checklist (Word 2007, 24 KB)


Tapasā is a cultural competencies framework for teachers. The Tapasā website provides resources, tools, and support for teachers of Pacific learners.


Classroom teaching resources

Ā Mātou Kōrero | Our Stories
A series of illustrated storybooks to support, reflect, and celebrate the Kiwi Muslim community in Aotearoa New Zealand. They are a way for non-Muslim Kiwis to “learn about others, so that they are no longer others.” The books are accompanied by kaiako support material to assist conversations with learners around the topics of grief and loss, and the cycle of life in general.

The Same Game
The Same Game, a big book for reading to students, is a set of resources, big book, audio, and teacher notes, intended to help foster the curriculum principles of diversity and inclusion.

School stories

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Rangikura School – Pasifika parent group leads learning
During Samoa Language Week the staff, students, parents, and wider community of Rangikura School came together to enjoy an array of activities and celebrations which were organised by the school’s Rangikura Matua Pasifika Parent group.

Papakowhai School – Celebrating Samoan Language Week
Jo Henderson is a teacher of year 5 and 6 students at Papakowhai School. In this snapshot, Jo describes an integrated art and social sciences project that she planned for her students for Samoa Language Week. Find out how Jo demonstrated the NZC principles of cultural diversity and community engagement through this sequence of learning activities. 

Amesbury School – Celebrating Diwali
Staff and students at Amesbury School recently celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. During the five day festival, students took part in learning experiences that built on their understandings of cultural diversity and students of Indian heritage shared their knowledge and customs.

Cultural diversity role brings communities together 
One Christchurch high school has created a coordinated approach to inclusion by appointing a cultural diversity facilitator to help bring the school’s communities together. 

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Supporting teachers with community engagement in the classroom  
Teacher Chrissie Rumpler explains how Owairaka School has supported staff to understand and engage with diversity in their school community. She also provides inspirational examples of what engaging communities can look like. 

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.

Community engagement – A parent's perspective
Saga Frost is a parent at Owairaka School in Auckland. She discusses how the school encourages all parents to be partners in the learning community and describes the benefits of having a culturally diverse school community. 

Understanding culture to support Pasifika students
Maggie Flavell explains the perspective of a non-Pasifika person working with Pasifika students. She talks about the importance of learning about the Pasifika culture to enable her to better engage with Pasifika students and their families.


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Treaty of Waitangi principle
This section on NZC Online offers support on how to acknowledge our nation’s bicultural foundations and enable students to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.

Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling (June 2003)
This report is one of a series of best evidence syntheses commissioned by the Ministry of Education. It explains ten characteristics of quality teaching to support teachers to manage the learning needs of diverse students.

Home: Stories from New New Zealanders
This text tells the stories of four Avondale Intermediate students who moved to New Zealand from overseas. Interviewed by their teacher, Kate Paris, the students share memories of what life was like in the countries where they were born (South Africa, Sāmoa, Pakistan, and Kenya), and they discuss what it’s been like adjusting to life in New Zealand. 

Tongan language, culture, and identity
Ma’ata Fusitu’a is a teacher of the Tongan language at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in South Auckland. In this blog Ma’ata explains some important aspects of Tongan family life and culture and offers some suggestions on how we can support Tongan language and culture in our schools and classrooms.

Being Tokelau in Aotearoa
Aloihio Kave Kelemete is an educator of Tokelau descent. In this blog, Hio explains some important aspects of Tokelau identity and offers suggestions on how we can promote Tokelau language and culture in our schools and classrooms.

Our Niuean cultural experience
Karl Vasau, principal of Rowandale School in South Auckland, recently took some of his teachers to Niue to learn more about the language and culture. In this blog, Karl reflects on this cultural exchange and shares some activities that his school uses to promote the language and culture of Niue.

Core Education blog: Going back to the island (May 2018)
Teanau Tuiono reflects on his own cultural heritage and urges educators to dive deeper into the cultures that our students bring into the classroom.  

Islamic practices observed by Muslim students: Guidelines for New Zealand schools (PDF)
This resource is designed to help New Zealand schools with Muslim students, in their understanding of some of the Islamic practices their students may observe during school time. 

PDF icon. Islamic practices observed by Muslim students at school (PDF, 543 KB)

Guide to basic Muslim etiquette (PDF)
This guide shares information about Muslim values, customs, and festivals. It serves as a guide only so do check with your Muslim families if you are not sure as there may still be some cultural differences.

PDF icon. Guide to basic Muslim etiquette (PDF, 65 KB)

Best Evidence Synthesis cases

The following cases from Best Evidence Synthesis iterations are user-friendly resources to support focussed professional learning related to the cultural diversity principle.

BES Case 18 – Integrate indigenous knowledge into the curriculum (online PDF)
This case, situated in Canada, explains how important a culturally responsive teaching approach was to the success of indigenous learners from low socio-economic status communities.

BES Case 11 – Create educationally powerful connections with learners’ cultures (online PDF)
This case illustrates how teachers can use practical strategies to encourage their students to draw on family and community knowledge and, in this way, accelerate their achievement.

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Defining diversity activities
This is a selection of activities from the Ministry of Education publication Defining Diversity: A Facilitation Manual to use with New to New Zealand (2008). The activities are designed to assist Boards of Trustees, senior management, teachers, and parents to deepen their understanding of cultural diversity and encourage the development of culturally appropriate responses. 

National events and the New Zealand Curriculum
These materials highlight national days and weeks of importance. They explain how national events link to The New Zealand Curriculum and provide ideas, resources, and tools to help schools get involved. Many of the national days and weeks provide a useful context for exploring the cultural diversity principle. 

Pasifika Education Community
This site provides resources, research, and other materials for teachers and school leaders to support the achievement of Pasifika learners and create a culturally responsive curriculum.

Inclusive Education Guides for Schools
This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions, and resources to support learners with diverse needs. The guide on developing an inclusive classroom culture has a strong correlation with the cultural diversity principle.  

ESOL Online
ESOL Online is a site to help all primary and secondary teachers respond to the needs of their English language learners.

Learning Languages
This TKI community provides professional learning opportunities, resources, and key links for learning languages.

Give nothing to racism
This campaign urges New Zealanders to give nothing to racism and refuse to spread intolerance.

Updated on: 24 Jul 2020


Support packages are available for all eight curriculum principles: