Yes, your views on the NZ history curriculum are sought but a grasp of te reo is needed to wade through the discussion paper

Covid-19 was high on the Beehive news agenda yesterday.

Foreign Affairs Minioster Nanaia Mahuta and her associate, Aupito William Sio, attended the virtual Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat from Waitangi.  The Pacific Leaders  focused on COVID-19 recovery and response, particularly equitable and timely access to safe vaccines for the peoples of the Pacific.

Speaking of vaccines, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed Medsafe’s provisional approval of New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the approval gave a green light for the first phase of the vaccination programme in New Zealand to begin.

Provisional consent means the pharmaceutical company must meet certain conditions, including supplying more data from its clinical trials around the world as they progress. This will happen at the same time as the vaccine is rolled out.

Provisional approval is not uncommon.  The annual influenza vaccine – for example – is given provisional approval for the same reason.

But the announcement that should command much greater political attention than the vaccine news came from Hipkins as Minister of Education.

He called for public engagement on draft curriculum content for New Zealand’s Histories to be taught in schools.

Not “history”, it should be noted.  It’s “histories” (reflecting the Treaty influence on the Wellington mindset, presumably).

The discussion began yesterday and will run until 31 May.

Hipkins said the government wants all New Zealanders to have their say on the draft content

“ … and we are hoping to hear from as many people as possible. I urge all New Zealanders who are interested in our history and kura to provide feedback.”

But dare we suggest that members of the public without a grasp of te reo may struggle to understand what is being proposed before they can form, let along submit, their opinions?

A section of the information we found online – for example – poses the question: Why we are doing this?

The answer:

We have heard a strong call for Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories to be taught to all ākonga at all schools and kura.

A section deals  with Te Takanga o te Wā in Te Marautanga o Aotearoa:

Te Takanga o Te Wā is the section of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa that is about teaching Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories.

Te Takanga o Te Wā can be aligned to all areas of learning within Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.  However, Te Takanga o Te Wā is most explicit within the learning area of Tikanga ā-Iwi. 

Tikanga ā-Iwi has been updated to reflect that all learners should have the opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of people, places and events that have influenced and shaped Aotearoa New Zealand historically through to the present day.

Te Takanga o Te Wā has been added to sit alongside the existing four strands.

This strand provides opportunities for big ideas to be explored. It will support teachers and tamariki to expand their knowledge, develop critical skills and look critically at Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories. 

The draft curriculum content as well as resources to support ākonga, whānau, kura, kaiako, iwi and the wider hāpori to engage are available.

Detailed curriculum content and resources for Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – Te Takanga o Te Wā – Kauwhata Reo:

Does Hipkins seriously expect the average New Zealander to wade comfortably through this?

Obviously he does.  But whereas the great bulk of the population speak English, only a few people understand the te reo which government officials nowadays liberally incorporate in their communications.

The 2018 census shows English was the most common language with which people could hold a conversation about everyday things, with 4,482,135 speakers (95.4 percent of the population).

The next most common language was te reo Māori (185,955 people or 4.0 percent)

Many Maori may struggle with the discussion paper because – according to Stats NZ –   more than one in six Māori adults said they could speak Te reo Māori, and a nearly a third said they could understand the language at least fairly well.

Just under half of Māori people had some Te reo Māori speaking ability.

Nevetheless, a grasp of te reo again is called for to deal with Hipkins press statement.  For example, groups consulted in the drafting of the proposals included : 

    • He Whakaruruhau comprised of pakeke drawn from diverse backgrounds whose experiences in Māori history and whakapapa, and knowledge and understanding of the contemporary Te Tiriti o Waitangi post settlement era, will umbrella each phase of the project across the national curriculum.
    • Ohu Matua (Reference group) comprised of curricula and history experts, Māori, Pākehā, Pacific, migrant communities, disabled peoples, teachers, kaiako and curriculum leaders.
    • Curriculum writing groups made up of two sub-groups from the Ohu Matua, consisting of curriculum experts which focusing on either Te Marautanga o Aotearoa or The New Zealand Curriculum.

But the fundamental issue is what the government is intending be taught in history classes.

In his press statement, Hipkins reminds us that in September 2019 the government announced New Zealand’s “histories” would be taught in all schools and kura from 2022.

“This was a response to the growing calls from New Zealanders to know more about our own history and identity,” Chris Hipkins said.

But it seems the detail of history lessons will depend on where schools are  located.

“In practice, learners across New Zealand will explore the stories that are unique to us. In Te Tai Tokerau, for example, I know people will be interested in learning about the battle that took place in Ruapekapeka during the Northern Wars in the 1800s.

“In Waikato, ākonga may learn about the invasion of Waikato led by Governor George Grey and the implications this had for people living in the region.

“In Otago, they may delve deeper into the region’s Māori and Chinese heritage and how it has helped shape the area into what it is today, while in Northland they may explore Māori histories and early Croatian stories.

“In Porirua, learners may explore the stories of Pacific migration to the area, including when and how people came to the city and the reasons for coming such as work and education. They could also explore how Pacific people have influenced the culture of Porirua,” Chris Hipkins said.

Over the past year, the Ministry of Education has been working with teachers, school leaders, school sector representatives, academics, representatives from the Māori, Pacific, migrants and disabled persons communities to draft curriculum content.

The content was tested in a small number of schools and kura in Term 4 last year and this year the Ministry is seeking input from all schools and kura – and, you will be pleased to know –  the public before the content is finalised.

Hipkins said having the resources and infrastructure in place to teach our young about all aspects of New Zealand’s past will be a watershed moment for us.

Draft content and an online survey is  available at Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories in our national curriculum – Education in New Zealand.

The curriculum updates will come into effect in 2022. They will be gazetted during 2021 to give schools and kura time to prepare for implementing this.

The themes agreed by Government in 2019 were:

  • The Arrival of Māori to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • First encounters and early colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Treaty of Waitangi and its history.
  • Colonisation of, and immigration to, Aotearoa New Zealand, including the New Zealand Wars.
  • Evolving national identity of Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s role in the Pacific.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 20th century and evolution of a national identity with cultural plurality.

Hipkins said the government wants all New Zealanders to have their say on the draft content “and we are hoping to hear from as many people as possible”.

He urged all New Zealanders who are interested in the country’s history and kura to provide feedback.

If he is serious, he should have demanded his officials use more user-friendly language in their documents (and yes, we know this is unfashionable in Wellington circles nowadays).

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