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What is a Bicultural Curriculum?

Updated: Jun 17

Te Whāriki is a bicultural curriculum. In practice this means that as part of a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi), all tamariki (children) experience, learn about, and connect with te ao Māori (the Māori world).

Bicultural principles and practices provide the foundation for promoting equitable educational success for tamariki Māori – with kaiako (Teachers) responding to the values, knowledge, and strengths tamariki Māori bring to their learning.

Māori success as Māori

Māori learners achieving educational success as Māori starts with kaiako understanding te ao Māori as a foundation for designing learning environments with and for Māori tamariki and their whānau that:

  • are positive, relevant, and responsive to their aspirations as Māori and citizens of the world

  • enable them to see, feel, and hear their culture around them – feel connected to the service

  • the essence of the Māori world view is relationships, not just between people – whānau, hapū, iwi – but also between the spiritual world and the natural world

  • everyone and everything is traced and explained through whakapapa, the ancestral layers that contribute to the “people, places, and things” of the present and into the future.

Significance of Whakapapa

Understanding the significance of whakapapa as a taonga in te ao Māori brings responsibilities and obligations for all kaiako with regards to the learning and wellbeing of tamariki Māori – obligations that include:

Te Whāriki affirms the identities, languages, and cultures of all children, whānau, kaiako, and communities from a strong bicultural foundation.

Each ECS setting’s curriculum whāriki recognises the place of Māori as tangata whenua of this land.

All children are given the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritages of the partners to Te Tiriti o Waitangi | Treaty of Waitangi.

The integration of kaupapa Māori concepts (Māori values and philosophy) and te reo Māori (Māori language) supports cultural, linguistic, social, and environmental diversity.

From a bicultural foundation, the early childhood curriculum affirms and celebrates cultural differences, and aims to help children gain a positive awareness of their own and other cultures.

It enables all peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand to weave their perspectives, values, cultures, and languages into the early learning setting.

The provision of respectful, responsive practices may include initiating celebrations, sharing food, and projects that focus on the values and stories of their communities. Using community languages in the ECE setting acknowledges Te Whāriki as "a place for all to stand".

Connections to Principles

Promoting and protecting the mana of children is critical to their learning and development. The ways in which whakamana is understood and reflected is embedded within cultural perspectives and the ways these perspectives are expressed. By respectfully acknowledging and being responsive to the identities, languages, and cultures of the children who attend their services, kaiako create an environment where children develop self-esteem and confidence about who they are and their place in the world.

The identities, languages, and cultures of whānau and communities influence child-rearing patterns, beliefs and traditions, and the ways different knowledge, skills, and attitudes are valued. Children’s learning and development is enhanced when there are connections across the settings in their lives, including their homes. Fostering culturally and linguistically appropriate ways of communicating with whānau, parents, extended family, and community is an important feature of this connectivity.

Identities, languages, and cultures are important aspects of children’s lives and their relationships with their worlds and others. Cultural understandings influence perceptions of the cognitive, social, cultural, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of human development. The ways in which these dimensions of children’s lives are interwoven is therefore shaped by the identities, languages, and cultures of children, whānau, and kaiako.

The development of culturally and linguistically appropriate ways of communicating with parents, whānau, and community supports the development of meaningful, trusting relationships. These relationships may acknowledge the past, present, and future, the importance of place and land, and engagement with people, places, events, and taonga. It also requires understandings of, and respect for, whānau aspirations for their children.


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