Weaving a Curriculum

Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 24)


Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996), Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, developed in the early 1990s, was heralded by practitioners, trainers and experts in ECEC as a radical and exciting advancement that stood in stark contrast to traditional technicist notions of curriculum. Yet at the time, development of a national curriculum for ECEC had been regarded by those in the sector as a risky undertaking. On the one hand, there was a fear that a curriculum might constrain the freedom and play-based philosophy that characterised ECEC; on the other hand, there was a fear of a “trickle-down” effect from a prescriptive Aotearoa New Zealand school curriculum if opportunity to develop an ECEC curriculum was not taken up (Carr & May, 1993). What was unique in its development was the very close regard for and genuine consultation with more than 20 diverse sector groups over a lengthy period, the partnership with Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust (the national body representing Māori immersion language kōhanga reo) which “meant that the ideal of a document that would provide a bicultural and bilingual framework for early childhood curriculum in Aotearoa-New Zealand could become a reality” (Carr & May, 1993, p. 11) and the inclusion of all ages, birth to school starting age within an integrated curriculum framework. The aspiration statement for all children emphasised children’s competence and agency; and the curriculum principles of family and community, holistic development, relationships and empowerment offered a strong platform for collective democracy to flourish. The sociocultural theoretical frame gave weight to social and cultural contexts; its aims were framed under the theme of mana, empowerment, and elaborated within five strands: mana atua, wellbeing; mana whenua, belonging; mana tangata, contribution; mana reo, communication; and mana aoturoa, exploration. The launch of the draft curriculum framework was marked by the Combined Early Childhood Union of Aotearoa (the trade union representing teacher/educators in kindergartens and childcare centres) with a national conference held in Christchurch in 1993, where the curriculum ideals were celebrated in the writers’ keynote speeches. So highly valued by the sector are the aspirational statement for children, the principles and the strands, that, despite the swings of policy, these have remained in the updated curriculum published in 2017 (Ministry of Education, 2017), which has as the title and central metaphor, Te Whāriki.


Early Childhood Education And Care (ECEC) Aotearoa ECEC Curriculum Mana Whenua United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) 
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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationThe University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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