Skip main navigation

How is the curriculum structured in Aotearoa?

In this step we give an initial overview of the way the curriculum in New Zealand is structured.
Black and white historic photograph of Otahuhu District School in 1877 with students lined up outside along the fence.
In this step we give an initial overview of the way the curriculum in New Zealand is structured. In the following weeks we will take a more indepth look at individual curriculum documents.

The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education is the Government’s lead advisory on the New Zealand education system. It shapes the direction for sector agencies and education providers. The ministry gives strategic leadership to the education sector, provides support and resources for the community which involves working with parents, iwi and Pasifika groups. They also produce and share resources for teachers and other education providers, manage school properties, and initiate specific interventions to support target student groups. The vision the ministry has is that every New Zealander:

  • Is strong in their national and cultural identity
  • Aspires for themselves and their children to achieve more
  • Has the choice and opportunity to be the best they can be
  • Is an active participant and citizen in creating a strong civil society
  • Is productive, valued and competitive in the world

There are three key curriculum documents provided by the government in Aotearoa. The National Curriculum comprises The New Zealand Curriculum, and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Cover page of the New Zealand Curriculum

This image shows the cover page of New Zealand Curriculum. Reproduced with permission. Originally published by the Ministry of Education, as on TKI 13 June 2022.

The English medium curriculum was introduced in 2007, and was fully implemented in schools by 2010. At the time of writing it is in the process of being refreshed.

Cover page of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

This image shows the cover page of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. Reproduced with permission. Originally published by the Ministry of Education, as on TKI 13 June 2022.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa the Māori medium curriculum was introduced a year later and was fully implemented by 2011. At the time of writing it is in the process of being refreshed.

Cover page of Te Whāriki

This image shows the cover page of Te Whāriki. Reproduced with permission. Originally published by the Ministry of Education, as on TKI 13 June 2022.

In addition to the two curricula for school aged students we have Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum. First published in 1996 and refreshed in 2017.

The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa were developed independently of each other and are not translations of each other. Together they both set directions for compulsory student learning in Aotearoa. Although both come from different perspectives, they both begin with a vision of young people who can develop the competencies they will need to work, and engage in lifelong learning, in order that they can reach their full potential. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa is written in te reo, and there is a version available that has been translated into English reo Pākeha.

Although the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa apply to all state funded schools, each school has autonomy over how they implement the curriculum, and the curriculum documents are not intended to be prescriptive, instead they offer a framework for teaching and learning.

Both the National Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa are divided into two parts. The first part describes the vision principles, values, key competencies and learning areas along with a guide to effective pedagogy, assessment and curriculum design.

The second part outlines the achievement objectives by level across each learning area or subject. The learning areas differ in each document, but they both have eight curriculum levels that span thirteen years of learning. One curriculum level is designed to be equivalent to approximately one year of schooling.

All licensed and regulated providers of early childhood education are required to implement the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education curriculum framework. The intention of Te Whāriki was to unify a diverse early childhood sector around a shared aspiration for children and an agreed framework of principles, strands and goals that teachers, educators and kaiako, children, families and whānau would use to weave their own unique curriculum. Te Whāriki builds on this framework, providing guidance to support implementation.

NCEA

The national certificate of educational achievement NCEA is the national senior secondary school certificate qualification. This is assessed during the last 2–3 years of school and courses cover a wide range of subjects. An overview of NCEA is not included in this course, but to find out more about it follow the link at the bottom of this article.

Print copies of the curriculum documents are available for those in New Zealand to order by calling +64 0800660662.

Share your initial thoughts about the way the Ministry of Education in Aotearoa has chosen to structure its curriculum in the comments below.

In the next step, we explain why, how and when the curriculum is being refreshed.

Extend your learning! To find out more about things mentioned in this step, click the links below.

Watch a recording of a webinar explaining the New Zealand Curriculum by Pamela Steeter, Head of Learning at Te Papa Tongarewa, and Tara Fagan, Principal Learning Advisor at Te Papa Tongarewa.

New Zealand Curriculum

Primary and lower secondary curriculum

Te Whāriki

Te Whāriki pathways

NZQA NCEA

The Ministry of Education

This article is from the free online

Enriching curriculum through culture and heritage in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education