In September 2019, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, made a surprising announcement that New Zealand history would be taught in a compulsory curriculum across all schools. The Ministry of Education had very recently argued against such a move before the Education and Workforce Select Committee, which rejected any move towards prescription. Public pressure had been increasing for some time, initiated by students from Otorohanga College after discovering they had learned nothing about the attack on nearby Rangiaowhia in February 1864.
The Ministry’s reluctance to support a compulsory curriculum did not derive from a belief that children and young people had a perfect understanding of New Zealand’s past. Rather, it stemmed from the fact that providing such a level of prescription ran counter to the existing social sciences curriculum, which gave schools substantial autonomy over what they taught. The decision to proceed with a new curriculum was clearly political. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Education has pushed through with this initiative despite the disruption of the pandemic and its various lockdowns. The draft curriculum was made public on 3 February and will be available for consultation until 31 May.
For some of the background to the Government’s decision see:
- Leah Bell, ‘Difficult Histories’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History, 2020
- Graeme Ball, ‘The Long History of Learning About Our Own History’, The New Zealand Journal of Public History, 2020.
The draft curriculum can be downloaded here
While there has been some discussion of the curriculum in more general terms, there has been little public debate over the detail. A panel of historians put together to advise the Ministry by the Royal Society Te Apārangi will shortly be releasing its comments.
The NZHA would like to encourage informed and considered discussion on the draft curriculum – on what it includes and on what it omits, as well as on its general approach to teaching history to children and young people.
Please consider making a contribution to the discussion by emailing it to email@example.com. All contributions will be posted to this webpage following moderation by the NZHA Executive. Please also let us know of other useful pieces already published, so that we can provide links to them.
Links to published pieces: