Te Whaariki

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Main Page - Educational approaches - Te Whaariki


Te Whaariki is the curriculum for early childhood care and education in New Zealand. This curriculum is a relatively new framework, created in 1996. Early childhood care in New Zealand has traditionally been diverse in delivery, and these programmes have also served a very diverse community (Tyler 2002). Te Whaariki was developed to regulate these diverse approaches, yet also provide for this cultural diversity. Te Whaariki translates from the Maori language as “a mat for all to stand on” and is particularly apt for such a country of diverse cultures as New Zealand (Carr 1999). There are two crucial principles on which Te Whaariki is based. Firstly, there is scope for deliverers of childhood education to develop their own unique programme within the Te Whaariki framework to suit local cultural traditions and environments. Secondly, it is equally adaptable to cater for the interests and aspirations of the child or children attending the early childhood service. In this way, there is a metaphorical reference made to weaving these factors into creating a robust curriculum; the Whaariki (woven mat) for all to stand on, referred to above.

The Te Whaariki curriculum is fundamentally based on the empowerment of children (Carr 1999), and is based on the following aspirations for children:

To grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.
(New Zealand Ministry of Education 1996)

The curriculum itself is founded on several principals that can be merged into an early education program based on children’s interests and aspirations (Tyler 2002). The guiding principals are as follows:

  • Empowerment (Whakamana)
The curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.
  • Holistic development (Kotahitanga)
This reflects the holistic way children learn and grow, and takes account of the cognitive, social, cultural, physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of human development.
  • Family and Community (Whanau Tangata)
The wider world of family and community is an integral part of early childhood curriculum.
  • Relationships (Nga Hononga)
Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things.

Teachers using the Te Whaariki framework consider children’s well being, their sense of belonging, the contributions they make, the importance of communication and develop opportunities for exploration. Furthermore, within this curriculum framework, there is importance placed on a Maori immersion curriculum within New Zealand in order to strengthen “Te Reo Maori” – the Maori language. Te Whaariki recognises the distinctive role of an identifiable Maori curriculum that protects Maori culture through the use of Maori language (Carr 1999).

Tyler (2002) outlines how the different paths that teachers have taken in implementing Te Whaariki have been as diverse as the communities they work in. Teachers have engaged with the curriculum based on their own theoretical understandings and children’s own interests and aspirations. In practice, the implementation of the Te Whaariki curriculum often differs from centre to centre across communities. The most notable achievement of the Te Whaariki curriculum is that it challenges teachers to adjust their teaching style to ensure that children’s and parents’ aspirations are recognised. In doing so, it facilitates a stimulating and rewarding learning journey for both teachers and students alike.


Carr, Margaret (1999) Learning and Teaching Stories: New Approaches to assessment and Evaluation, http://www.aare.edu.au/99pap/pod99298.htm (visited 05-July-05)

Ministry of Education (1996) Te Whaariki. He Whaariki Matauranga mo nga Mokopuna O Aoteroa. Early Childhood Education, Learning Media, http://www.minedu.govt.nz/web/downloadable/dl3567_v1/whariki.pdf (visited 05-July-05)

Tyler, Jilly (2002) Te Whaariki: The New Zealand Curriculum Framework, http://www.worldforumfoundation.org/wf/presentations/index.php?p=2002_tyler (visited 05-July-05)

Useful Links

Capital City Preschool
This is an example of a school in New Zealand which has adopted the Te Whaariki approach in the delivery of its curriculum. The website outlines how this has influenced the school’s learning environment, and outlines how the principals of Te Whaariki have been utilised.
http://www.capitalcitypreschool.co.nz/ourCurriculum.html#section01 (visited 05-July-05)

Robin’s Nest Early Childhood and Preschool
A further example of how Te Whaariki has been implemented. This outlines also how the school assesses children’s progress and learning using ‘Learning Stories’; an approach consistent with the Te Whaariki approach.
http://www.robinsnest.net.nz/html/programmes.html (visited 05-July-05)

Te Whaariki – Early Childhood Curriculum
This is the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood curriculum policy statement. This further provides guidance on desirable objectives and practices, and includes teaching and learning materials.
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/index.cfm?layout=document&documentid=3567&indexid=3612&indexparentid=1095 (visited 05-July-05)