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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
Response from the Royal Society Te Apārangi Expert Advisory Panel:
Comment from Dame Anne Salmond
Further Comment from Dame Anne Salmond – Iwi vs. Kiwi: Beyond the Binary
Comment from Charlotte Macdonald – History in Schools: What’s In, What’s Not, and What Should Be
Comment from Helene Wong – 180 years of Chinese NZ History Appear to Count for Nothing
Comment from Manying Ip – The New Zealand Chinese Experience is Unique and Important: The New History Curriculum Can’t Ignore it
Comment from Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga – Commentary on Aotearoa NZ’s Histories Draft Curriculum
Joint Submission By Individuals of East Asian Heritages, Organised by Grace Gassin:
Comment from Mark Sheehan – New Curriculum: Thinking Critically About the Past
Comments from Philip Matthews – History in the Making: The Battle Over the New School Curriculum
6 thoughts on “Discussion of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories: Draft Curriculum”
Comment from Emeritus Professor Erik Olssen:
There is much to like – the curriculum has been designed to provide flexibility, especially with regard to local and regional histories; it insists on the importance of mātauranga Māori in design and delivery for the first time; and it provides a broad overall framework.
I do have some concerns, however, which I believe are widely shared within the profession. There are two that I’ll mention without discussing in detail: (1) the idea that history is designed to train anyone to make ethical judgments is peculiar to the drafting committee – history is about understanding and explaining and relies upon a known methodology (about which there is nothing); (2) the skills required are too generic, especially given that the curriculum is designed for children up to year 10; and, (3), by covering the same topics year after year the curriculum threatens to bore kids silly .
I have a major concern about the framework. The topics chosen seem somewhat arbitrary and fail to take into account the range and complexity of our history. Indeed the curriculum fails to take into account the range and complexity of our Māori history both pre-European and post-European. Nor does it acknowledge let alone study such important developments as the creation of: – one of the world’s oldest democratic political systems and societies; an economy that has sustained a high standard of living, a healthy population with long life expectancy, and a global innovator in producing food for a global market; etc, etc. Besides which these is no provision for studying the other peoples who have shaped identities here let alone their contribution to a ‘national’ identity.
Nor can I see how the local and the three key framing devices are to be integrated. I am further concerned about how this curriculum will be resourced given the timeframe for rolling it out, the complexity of its requirements, and the lack of existing resources aimed at years 1 through 10. This is especially so with regard to the lack of resources for teaching local history, where the existing resources are very uneven. Some tribes have written histories, most don’t; some provinces have histories, our most populous, Auckland, doesn’t; and the situation is even worse when one comes to towns, townships, and farming districts.
Finally – for fear of inducing boredom – I could nowhere find any provision for studying the basic tools of historical inquiry: ascertaining the ‘facts’; determining their reliability and relevance; explaining divergence and difference with regard to the former; and crafting an argument based on the analysis of the evidence.
Comment from Dr Jock Phillips:
The introduction of a compulsory Aotearoa New Zealand history curriculum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve New Zealanders’ understanding and love of the past and to create a thriving historical culture. It is therefore crucial that we get it right; and not inspire resentment about the compulsory teaching of history.
There is much in the proposed curriculum which is praiseworthy. The emphasis on local stories and local resources is excellent. If pupils are to develop a sense of the relevance of history and a love of the subject then it must help inform and enrich the world around them. Visits to local places, stories about people and events which occurred just outside the window, will develop a respect for the importance of history and foster people’s understanding of their immediate environment. More particularly it will encourage a knowledge of the distinctive stories and traditions of local iwi.
The emphasis on Māori and iwi history is also to be applauded. All New Zealanders need to have a sense of the long history of Māori settlement in New Zealand and the extraordinary stories of their migration and settlement in this land. Using place names to anchor these stories to the immediate landscape is also welcome.
There are also very worrying aspects. These are:
The curriculum is based, not on areas of study, but on three big ideas, three conclusions that all pupils must draw. This is the very antithesis of what good history should be, which is debate, discussion of different points of view, and encouraging pupils to come to their own conclusions through the examination of historical evidence. A dogmatic imposition of state-sponsored conclusions will simply encourage resentment. Pupils must be given the resources and taught the skills to find out about the past for themselves. That way their conclusions will last a lifetime.
The curriculum is very repetitive, and there is no quicker way to turn off pupils than endless regurgitation of the same subject. Novelty, freshness, the discovery of stories about the past which encourage the reflection, “I did not know that before” are what is needed, not endless revisiting of the same old subjects.
The curriculum does not seem to engage with the range of backgrounds that New Zealand schools now include with a very heavy emphasis upon the experience of Māori. I think it important that all New Zealanders know something about the impact of the coming of the British Empire had on Māori society. But I believe the best way to encourage this is to get students to explore real issues that are relevant to their background and community and then extend this to the experience of Māori in this country. So if, for example, you live in Southland where the population is heavily dominated by people of Scots heritage, then pupils there might learn about the Highland clearances that sent so many people overseas. They would learn about the importance of land and the pain when people lost their land. From this it is a short distance to understanding the pain of the confiscation of land from Māori. Similarly if you live in south Auckland from a Pacific Island background then studying the impact of the coming of Christianity to the Pacific communities will offer a good route into understanding the impact of Christianity on Māori society. Teaching must make the story meaningful to the diverse peoples of New Zealand, and this curriculum does not seem to do that.
There are hugely significant gaps with respect to topics that all New Zealanders should be aware of. These include:
Economy: There is nothing in the curriculum about how New Zealanders have earned a living. Nothing about Māori trading networks, about the early exploitative industries like mining and whaling, the development of pastoral farming and the way this locked New Zealand into a dependency on the mother country, the emergence of a diverse economy over the past half century.
Gender and family: All New Zealanders should know the history of the subordinate position of women in New Zealand, the oppression suffered by gay people, and the attempts to correct these injustices historically.
Class: Just as traditional Māori society had strong traditions of leadership by rangatira, so most of the cultures that settled New Zealand subsequently brought their own traditions of social hierarchy. Much of the history of New Zealand in the past centuries has involved a contest between different social classes. The movements of working people and the great confrontations of 1890, 1913, 1951 should be known by all New Zealanders.
Culture: The creative culture of all New Zealanders, tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, should be explored. This has been both an outlet of personal identity and also an important expression of group and national identity. New Zealanders should know about Apirana Ngata’s Nga Moteatea but also the music of Split Enz or the art work of Colin McCahon.
International contexts: We need to draw on the history of the rest of the world to understand for example, the dispossession of land in other societies or the experience of world wars. If it is important that New Zealanders know about Rangiaowhia and Ōrakau, it is also important they remember Passchendaele.
It would be a tragedy if the planned curriculum simply evoked hostility and racist resentment because non-Māori New Zealanders found no place for their own traditions and experience. We must all know something about the impact of colonialism on Māori but we should even more learn to love the multi-faceted history of this country and want to keep discovering it for ourselves.
I have spoken to a number of primary school teachers for their comments and the most helpful was a teacher from Green Bay Primary.
She said that the new generation of teachers trained under the ‘national standards’ format introduced by the National government a decade or so ago was the main barrier to teaching history in schools.
At Green Bay Primary an older generation of teachers still teach the full range of subjects they had been trained in and New Zealand history including Tiriti o Waitangi has always been a part of their curriculum. They teach using:
Tamsin Hanley’s, ‘A critical guide to teaching Maori and Pakeha histories of Aotearoa’
The website is:
The Green Bay Primary teachers find it a useful and easy guide.
Her comments were extremely helpful as they were simple, and instead of focussing on the multiple difficulties of attempting to work with ‘national standards’ which most of the other teachers focussed on, most asking the question, ‘Where would history fit into the national standards’?, apparently the Green Bay teachers have always taught history and segway-ed it into the reading, writing, design, enquiry etc aspects of teaching that are required.
Comment from Professor Jack Vowles:
The consultation draft, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories in the New Zealand Curriculum, places the Māori experience in the centre of its narrative, identifies the process of colonisation as its major theme, and identifies the locus of historical change in the uses of power and authority. Its explicitly stated objective is to restructure political and social attitudes among the young; as it says up front, ‘to shape Aotearoa New Zealand’s future, start with our past’.
Coming from a critical Māori perspective, the ideas it presents shape form one of multiple approaches to the analysis of New Zealand history. They present a radical challenge to past and prevailing historical interpretations.
In a compulsory curriculum to be taught in schools the favouring of this activist approach and its neglect of alternatives is simply inappropriate. On its own, without the competing perspectives against which it stands, it is both narrow and prescriptive.
The proposed curriculum is shaped by three ‘Big Ideas’ that are repeated over and over throughout. In the 2020 NCEA History Learning Matrix their role is explained: they ‘capture the essence of a subject, ensuring coherence …. learning that is critical for ākonga to know, understand, and do …’ These ideas must therefore be both understood and learned. They are therefore more than just ideas, they are deemed to constitute essential knowledge, the level of comprehension of which will presumably be assessed.
The curriculum plays into an ideal of critical citizenship, but its understanding of the word ‘critical’ is not that of most historians, or of those who take a scientific approach to the study of society. Most historians and empirically-minded social scientists regard the task of criticism to be one of questioning knowledge claims, which can be theoretical, by way of coherence or logic, or more often empirical, based in the sources of evidence that might support or refute a causal inference or explanation. Similarly, a critical citizen is encouraged to be sceptical about sources of news and the claims of political actors and particularly those of politicians.
But this draft History curriculum reads ‘critical’ to mean ‘critical of the past’. Students are to be actively encouraged to make moral judgements about historical actors. They are first encouraged to understand past values and contexts but, in the end, they are still invited to judge them. But while we can make easy judgements about slavery and genocide, most moral judgements we might be tempted to make about the past usually tend to be more complex and nuanced than those extreme examples, and historians tend to be wary of making such ‘moral calls’. Teachers should be similarly careful. This understanding of ‘critical’ will tend to bias investigation toward actors who are to be criticised rather than those to be approved, or just acknowledged in passing.
The consulation draft’s interpretation of our history is one among many. It is shaped by an influential current of thought in Education and the Humanities, post-structuralism. In particular, it has the imprint of critical race theory, in which racial and ethnic identities play a dominant narrative role and, indeed, this is the role that Māori play in the document throughout. Alternative approaches to the study of history are either sidelined or ignored. But while ethnicity and race loom large in the New Zealand story, they are not the whole story.
If this Curriculum goes forward into the classroom, under the shadow of assessments that will require agreement with these ideas, will students and teachers be empowered to criticise and dissent from them? There are many reasons why they should. Here are some of the most obvious.
Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa-New Zealand.
The first idea is perhaps the most obviously controversial. Note the ‘the’ as opposed to ‘a’. No one can dispute that Māori came to these islands first, and have rights from prior occupation recognised in international law, common law and in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. But pre-contact Māori society was iwi and hapu-based; there was no one ‘nation’ or people. Our bicultural origins as a nation of Māori and Pākehā are greatly downplayed by this ‘Big Idea’. The history of Aotearoa-New Zealand as the society we inhabit today begins in 1840 with Te Tiriti o Waitangi which is recognised as the document that marks our country’s foundation. Māori history is part of the foundation of Aotearoa-New Zealand, and it is continuous; but there is much other continuous New Zealand history to be told, and much of that history – if covered at all – is relegated to the small print in this draft curriculum. Māori should loom large in a curriculum for the teaching of New Zealand History. They should not dominate it.
Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society.
This second Big Idea headlines the concept of colonisation. These days, colonisation does a lot of heavy lifting in political debate, as does its counterpart, decolonisation. It is a term that is politically charged, often ill-defined, and frequently used for political purposes. In social science, one should be sceptical of such Big Ideas, particularly if they come with other baggage, and this is one of the best examples. A history curriculum that leans too heavily on such a concept means that discussions and debates that are based on an unquestioning acceptance of its use as a building block of ‘knowledge’ will lack nuance and fail to recognise complexity. While the draft states that the concept is ‘complex’ and ‘contested’, this apparent acknowledgement is belied by the assertion that the almost the entire scope of New Zealand History must be understood through its lens.
Colonisation has been assigned a wide meaning in the work of Franz Fanon, whose work has inspired many post-structuralist analysts. For Fanon, colonisation is an ‘imperial project’ rooted in ideology – the very words used in the draft curriculum. It is based on violent means of oppression, creating a world based on a clear distinction between colonised and the coloniser, who has clear intentions of destroying the native culture. According to Fanon, the natives are ‘dehumanised’, allowing them not to be worthy as being treated as equals or given rights. They rebel but are repressed by violence. To Fanon, the goal of decolonisation is to create a new national culture based on the native population’s history and culture, drawing only selectively on what might be useful in from the colonising culture, continuing to remember its crimes and injustices. In this approach, colonisation is an ongoing and traumatic experience of the colonised, and a far more extreme experience than that of Aotearoa. New Zealand is not Algeria, from where Fanon drew his insights. Some Māori seem to accept this as an interpretation of their own experience. This should be acknowledged. But it is not the experience of the vast majority of people who now live in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Indeed, colonisation is far from being an adequate umbrella under which to understand some of the worst aspects of the history of Māori since European contact. As one example, before colonial settlement and Te Tiriti, largely under their own volition Māori had acquired muskets that led to intense inter-tribal wars. Estimates of deaths run at about ten times higher than those experienced in the later New Zealand Wars. As another example, European contact prior to colonisation Māori exposed Māori to diseases to which they had no immunity, leading to a well-documented demographic decline that began well before the signing of the Te Tiriti. There is increasing attention in global history to the effects of pandemics on vulnerable populations, and the social and economic crises that follow. Our current experience of COVID-19 should resonate with learning about this sad part of our pre-colonial and colonial history, if it were to be included in the curriculum.
A post-structuralist understanding of colonisation is an interpretation, not ‘knowledge’. Its uncritical acceptance will lead to ‘critical’ cherry-picking of the history of Aotearoa-New Zealand to provide supporting evidence for racism and repression, much as we currently see in some contemporary presentation of our history on media platforms; for now at least, perhaps a useful corrective to more rosy pictures of the past in popular memory.
But in a compulsory History curriculum a balance needs to be struck between negative and positive constructions of events in the past, and simple moral judgements discouraged. Meanwhile New Zealand’s evolution as a bicultural representative democracy, perhaps the first in the world, also needs recognition. Sadly New Zealand society retains elements of racism, less now than in the past, but also has a proud history of anti-racism, and the increasing regard for and role of Māori in our society should be celebrated.
The course of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power.
While at first sight a political scientist might welcome such a central focus on power, the understanding of power explicit in this document is that of Michel Foucault, who is one of the most influential poststructuralist thinkers. To Foucault, power is embedded throughout society and, together with knowledge, is a means of social control through institutions. Knowledge about the past is one of these means of social control: it is not going too far to suggest that by focusing so strongly on colonisation this draft curriculum is ‘a Foucauldian project’.
Interpretation of Foucault is difficult, subject to nuances that many of those who follow him may not appreciate. Political science distinguishes more clearly than most of Foucault’s disciples between types and uses of power, and recognises that power can operate by way of deliberation, communication, and consent. Consent may be by force of necessity – which may reflect power at a deeper level – or may be the result of compromises relatively freely made, sometimes in circumstances no one intended and where people simply tried to do their best at the time. Arguably, much of the history of ethnic relations in this country operates at this level.
Meanwhile the document is strangely silent on where power lies and how it is used by those who have it. There is little or nothing about governments, or parliament, or economic developments that are important part of the story. There is no recognition of the establishment, by the 1890s, of what many consider to have been the world’s most advanced democracy at the time, leading to a significant reduction in the power of the founding colonial elite. There is nothing about the role of economic interests in the shaping of our society; the economic development of infrastructure, farming, business, and industry, essential for a society to provide a good standard of living, health, and well-being for its people. (Of course the environmental consequences also need to be addressed, and there the Draft Curriculum does have much content, but entirely from a Māori perspective).
The post-structuralist thrust of the Draft Curriculum means that where the use of power is mentioned, it is conflictual, in social movements that challenge authority. In these Foucauldian terms, power is control, if not domination. The state is remote from the people. Rather than a responsive government being persuaded by democratic means, it is ‘forced’ to act. The idea of power operating under conditions of consent in a representative democracy is almost entirely missing from this curriculum. For Foucault, according to one interpretation, politics is ‘war by peaceful means’.
There is increasing demand for schools to play more of a role in educating to promote more effective social and political engagement, in critical citizenship, and generating better understandings of the principles of democracy. It would be helpful if historical education could play a role in that project. The British origins of our Westminster constitution also need recognition. Post-structuralist theory based on the idea of colonisation regards it as an alien import, which suggests why it is expunged from our history in this draft curriculum. Yet the evolution of our constitution is a story of adaptation and change, of becoming domiciled in Aotearoa, and our finding our own ways to govern ourselves, including increasing recognition of rangatiratanga.
There is also no apparent recognition in the draft curriculum that students should be interested in the real individuals who by their vision and leadership shaped the development of Aotearoa New Zealand. While the study of history should not over-emphasise the role of ‘great persons’ in history, neither should it ignore them. Like adults who, if they read History, tend to prefer biographies, students are more likely to be interested in people than in processes. Without the kind of sophisticated treatment more likely to be found in tertiary education, post-structuralist history runs the risks of ignoring nuances and complexity, of essentialising the interests of social groups, and of ascribing worst-possible motives to groups and individuals on the basis of theory rather than evidence.
A curriculum for the history of our country should not be shaped by only one school of historical thought that promotes distrust in institutions, guilt about the past, and deep pessimism about the foundations of human society. By way of its regular assessments, our education system puts considerable pressure on students. Their mental health is a matter of concern given expectations that their generation will be less economically secure than that before it. As they move into adulthood our children will encounter the international and domestic consequences of climate change that their parents and grandparents have failed to address. They are more likely to respond to a vision of the history of Aotearoa New Zealand that, while acknowledging the injustices of the past, gives reasons for hope, pride and grounds for optimism that improvement is possible through democratic means.
We should ask: what sort of curriculum is most likely to engage students? If three themes were to be chosen as coordinating ideas for the teaching of the history of Aotearoa-New Zealand, I would recommend, first, globalisation: a process of migration and exchange that goes well back into pre-history, moving on to follow the people who became Māori, the development of international trade, its penetration into the Pacific, and the consequences continuing into the present. The second idea would be cultural encounter, focusing initially on Māori-Pākehā relations, including the Te Tiriti, colonisation, and then the more recent development of a multi-cultural society. The third theme would be democracy and power, focussing on the promotion of human well-being through social and political action by individuals, and within and between social and ethnic groups: the ongoing work, through peaceful means, to ensure the widest possible sharing of happiness among our peoples.
Comment from Dame Dr Claudia Orange:
The draft curriculum, circulated in February for feedback, has taken a small group of experts over a year to put together. It has undoubtedly been challenging for the group. It is also a great opportunity as it can not only introduce students to the country’s history but also lay the basis for student work in history methods. Both are pluses in the move to have history in schools levels 1-10 and should be stressed.
Comments by other historians (NZHA) have certainly found a lack of some essential topics that should be included in the draft; many if not most historians would agree with most of these on their lists. My comments however do not try to engage with the lists, but aim to look at the draft from a broader point of view.
Engaging as an historian: Given that the new curriculum is for years one to ten, it is important that students are excited by the study of our county’s history. The new curriculum needs to do this as a key aim. Good planning might avoid any downsides of unnecessary repetition; at present, the draft seems to have a degree of repetition, but this might have been unavoidable in a compacting down of too much information.
An essential of the new curriculum could be to develop students’ skills in those aspects of history which are key to all such work – library and online skills, a searching for sources which allow for emergence of diverse stories, ability in critical evaluation of online material. An overall aim could be an understanding of the complex nature of research, of the need for evidence, for critical thinking, of the need for striking balanced appraisals and how facts can be debated, with the added considerations of the differences of context, values and timeframes in evaluations. All of these are ambitious goals but, if achieved, would prepare students to move on to more demanding history, and inspire them to be future historians.
The draft for years one to ten, therefore, can form a basis for on-going history work. Although the draft makes no mention of years 11, 12 1nd 13, these are years when students can opt for taking history. If they do so, they can cover topics already touched or dealt with in years1-10; in senior classes these topics can be expanded at greater depth and in more sophisticated ways. Many of the subjects that are said to be missing from the draft can be taken up by teachers at that time.
Setting the context and new interpretations: It would be important however that students have benefitted from the training in years 1-10 in critical thinking and can challenge accepted interpretations of areas of content and sources that have long been part of history work at secondary level. This means that understanding of the international context of most topics/subjects is significant for example. It needs to be seen as part of the new curriculum but it will probably be difficult to draw it in at any depth; students at that level (1-10) are usually engaged with the immediate context of local and national events, as they impact on their lives or as viewed in the media.
Guidelines for regional work and resources: The draft stresses regional work. In going out for knowledge locally there will be a need for careful guidelines to support teachers and students when approaching any local community as well as Maori connections. In practice teachers have usually found this can be a thorny issue and not easy. The development of guidelines for practical exploration of research locally could be carried out in conjunction with the development of resources on localities, an area which historians note are probably in short supply.
A lack of diversity is noted by several commentators in assessing the draft. This lack is significant because students in years one to 10 need to be able to relate to circumstances and stories of people familiar to them, or at least people who are their forebears. Such stories are ikely to raise student emotions, especially if there have been issues in engagement with both Maori and other New Zealanders, as there often is. And yet emotion can be important in encouraging students to explore the issues further, so that balanced assessments can be made.
Timeframe, teacher resources: The timeframe for introducing the new history draft in 2022 is indeed a speedy one. A draft needs to clarify that this move will take at least three to five years and more to introduce fully. It is also important that teachers are trained by teachers at all levels, so that goals can be tempered by the reality of teaching situations which vary greatly around the country. The appreciation of this and the development of resource skills by and for teachers, at each year level of the new curriculum, is in itself going to be a challenge. Adequate funding, appropriate secondments and extra preparation hours are critical to its success.
Power and Maori agency, and new interpretations: The curriculum draft has three big ideas- understand, know, do; broadly, to understand the past to make sense of the present and to inform future decisions and actions. The key understandings are strongly asserted and, with slight word changes, can’t be disputed: Maori history is foundational and continuous; colonisation has been central to the past 200 year of our history and continues to influence all aspects of our communities; and the course of our history has been shaped (or influenced) by the exercise of power and the effects of power. However, although power in the last 200 years has been held by the dominant community and its institutions, it has been modified and often shaped by Maori agency, a factor which can be overlooked. The draft might well note this. Power in the Maori community is also a factor that might well be understood as part of any assessment, depending on the period being studied.
There is strong language in the conclusions to be drawn, as expressed in the draft, which challenge the range of interpretations of subject areas we have studied in the past (and the published works). It asks teachers and students (and historians) to reconsider aspects of key areas – for example, the economy, politics and culture – in the terms as expressed in the draft. Certainly they form aspects to be researched by students, but this will open up new areas of research and knowledge, hitherto not well researched. It promises to be an exciting new opening up of our history in ways that will engage not only students but historians as well as other New Zealanders.
I commend and thank those who have taken the responsibility as Kaitiaki for the forming of the history curriculum.
My response here reflects only my personal experience and the comments from teachers I have spoken to. These teachers are concerned that adding history or any other subject to the curriculum adds to an already unrealistic work load will not ensure its success. This underlying work load issue needs to be addressed when considering the introduction of history to an already overloaded list of work requirements for teachers if its introduction is to be successful.
In the short term, it was felt that a proscriptive approach might be the most helpful in that it would save teachers much time in sourcing material.
The most helpful suggestion received for introducing history to young students was received from a teacher at Green Bay Primary School where they have already incorporated history into their curriculum. They teach from a website designed for teachers:
Tamsin Hanley’s, ‘A critical guide to teaching Maori and Pakeha histories of Aotearoa’
My personal view, gained from my own primary school experience, is that children are entranced by ‘stories’ – stories they have a personal connections to such as what grandad and grandma did during the war, why the main streets of their town has the name it has, what is the story behind the name of the nearby mountain etc. This approach can be segwayed with other curriculum subjects like reading, writing, composing projects, art, design, research and so on.
I feel that full engagement for pupils is most likely to be achieved when they can recognise themselves as part of the ‘story’. I would consider renaming the topic to ‘Hi – story!’ rather than the more formal ‘History’, with the intention of achieving engagement whereby the pupils might be inspired to discover the deeper nuances when they are older, and more able to critically engage in a more structured history class, with the story that has most engaged their interest.