Te Whāriki is the early childhood curriculum document for Aotearoa New Zealand, and provides a framework for early childhood settings to design their own local curriculum. Te Whāriki 2017 is an updated version of the 1996 original document.
Te Whāriki means ‘a woven mat’ and refers to the way in which its principles and strands are interwoven to develop curriculum. Te Whāriki has been developed to ensure that all children receive the opportunity to experience a rich curriculum with equitable opportunities to learn across a full range of learning outcomes.
Te Whāriki aims to realise its vision for children to be ‘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’ (p. 2). The mana of the child is held paramount, and the curriculum focuses on respectful, responsive and reciprocal relationships as a foundation for wellbeing, learning and development. Te Whāriki is grounded in a commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which informs obligations to protect Māori culture and language, and to ensure the success of Māori children as Māori.
There is a lack of evidence about the impact of Te Whāriki on outcomes for children and families, and no literature that evaluates its effectiveness. However, there is ample evidence internationally for the influence of high quality early childhood education for raising academic and lifelong holistic outcomes for children. The literature informing Te Whāriki 2017 identifies a focus on children’s wellbeing and emotional development, warm and responsive interactions, culturally responsive pedagogies, intentional teaching and a cognitively challenging curriculum as particularly important to high quality play-based ECE.
It is expected that early childhood settings will weave their own unique and particular emphasis or local set of priorities from the principles and strands of Te Whāriki for their setting. This requires strong pedagogical leadership, partnerships with families focussed on improving children’s learning, and assessment practices that identify children’s capabilities and progress.
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