The Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for the delay of the New Zealand history curriculum being taught in schools, with Education Minister Chris Hipkins saying the added workload on teachers already under pressure would be unfair.
“The main driver for the changing timetable for New Zealand histories in schools has been the global pandemic,” he told media today.
"It’s meant that schools have had to focus on supporting children to learn from home. The teachers have been fully deployed in doing that. And when we’re doing something as significant as rolling out new curriculum content, we want to make sure that schools can do that properly, that the teachers have got time to prepare because obviously, they’ve got new lesson plans, new curriculum resources."
In 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced all schools and kura would be expected to start teaching the country's history to year 0 to 10 students by 2022. However, that date has now been pushed out to 2023, allowing schools more time to navigate their way through the new curriculum.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced in 2019 Aotearoa History will be added to the education curriculum in 2022.
Māori Party co-Leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says she understands the complications and disruptions the global pandemic creates but is questioning the year-long postponement.
"I get that we're a nation in the middle of a pandemic, but Māori have had the pandemic of racism for a very long time. That does not excuse the fact that our rangatahi, our communities, indeed our kaiako, those creating the curriculum, need to be once and for all committing to the decolonisation of our education," she told Te Ao Māori News.
A draft of the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum early in 2021 drew criticism from an expert panel convened by Te Aparangi-Royal Society of New Zealand for omitting topics, including women, labour and economics, and the single largest block of the country's human history - the 600 years of pre-European Māori life. Subsequent public consultation drew more than 4000 submissions, some of which also questioned the subjects within the curriculum.
Ministry of Education Hautū Te Poutāhū Curriculum Centre's Ellen MacGregor-Reid says the feedback received urged sufficient preparation and implementation time for curriculum changes to enable successful teaching and learning.
MacGregor-Reid says the new curriculum will be released during Term 1 of 2022, subject to approval by the cabinet.
From then schools and kura will be able to access and use the new curriculum content. They will also be able to access a range of teaching resources and professional learning supports, which will continue to be added to over time.
Ngārewa-Packer says despite the setbacks, the Ministry of Education could have done more to have the curriculum designed and ready for 2022.
Could have done more
“I get it. We’re all in a situation now, with our lives. I have it at the marae as a trustee. We have all been affected and we haven’t been able to meet and put the same kinds of energy in because a lot of us have been committed to being on the ground with the vaccine and testing. However, the Ministry of Education is still working and is still a fully resourced agency that should be pulling out all the stops to make sure our advisory committees are resourced and indeed the tautoko was given.
“They are no different from the Māori Health Authority. We have been meeting during recess, during the holidays to stand up a really important kaupapa. What is the difference between being able to meet and carry on and discuss the Māori Health Authority, and carrying on and discussing Māori education and Mātauranga Māori needs?”
MacGregor-Reid says the Ministry has been engaging with Māori as part of the development of the curriculum "we have also developed a number of relationships and funding agreements with iwi and hapū to support the development of action and engagement plans with schools and kura."
Teaching Aotearoa history in schools has been pushed for many years. In 2015 a 13,000-signature petition organised by Ōtorohanga College students for more education about the land wars during the 1860s was presented to Parliament, however, the movement didn’t gain momentum until 2019.
When pushed today on how much longer the country has to wait for history, particularly Māori history, to be taught in schools, Hipkins says there are plenty of opportunities ahead to celebrate that history.
Thousands of people gathered at the steps of Parliament in 2015 to deliver a petition calling for Aotearoa History to be taught in schools.
“There’ll be plenty of opportunities to celebrate New Zealand history in the years to come and it’s a continuing thing including simple things like making sure schools are adequately resourced to be able to talk about Matariki as we have Matariki as a public holiday.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work in that area but we also have to recognise that schools have been under a huge amount of pressure, and saying that they’ll have to implement the New Zealand histories curriculum this year, which is what we were originally intending, would be a huge additional burden for them on top of the response to Covid-19.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her government remains committed to introducing the new curriculum to schools and kura.
“It’s a technical point. It can and still will be taught. It just hasn’t been gazetted,” she said today.
Once 'gazetted', or being formally being added to the national curriculum, all schools and kura will be required to implement Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories and Te Takanga o Te Wā in their local curriculum and marau ā-kura from the stated date, which will be for the start of the 2023 school year.