National | Education

Decolonising the curriculum

An Auckland primary school teacher of 25 years, Tamsin Hanley has mortgaged her home to be able to research and produce 'A critical guide to Māori and Pākehā histories', a professional development package aimed at educating teachers about accurate histories of NZ.

"It's giving them local, accurate, decolonised critical histories for them to teach," says Hanley.

Her master's degree research found that some schools aren't teaching accurate histories.

"They teach generally what I call 'standard story' which is a kind of colonial version, like [Captain James] Cook discovered the country and the English Treaty is the [correct] Treaty version and all this stuff which we know now is inaccurate."

Hanley says that under the NZ Curriculum, every school is meant to enact the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.  However, she suggests that schools can't honour the Treaty if the teachers don't understand the accurate histories of NZ.

"I'm talking about Pākehā teachers, experienced teachers, and also Pacifica teachers and Asian teachers and Indian teachers and all the rest of our ethnicity teachers.  They don't know these accurate histories.  There are also Māori people, teachers, who don't know the stories."

Hanley developed six books form a new Curriculum Programme Resource for schools or teachers to form lessons and activities in primary, secondary or early childhood education.

Now in its third year, over 40 schools have adopted the resource.

"The teachers' narratives start to change so the standard story narrative starts to go away and an accurate history starts to come out in teachers' work, planning, resources and all their displays in their classrooms and that means all their children's narratives start to change."

Hanley hopes that every educator gets an opportunity to read it so that accurate histories are taught in schools.