Te Whāriki

Te Whāriki is the Ministry of Education's early childhood curriculum policy statement.

It is a framework for providing tamariki (children's) early learning and development within a sociocultural context.

It emphasises the learning partnership between kaiako (teachers), parents, and whānau/families. Kaiako (teachers) weave an holistic curriculum in response to tamariki (children's) learning and development in the early childhood setting and the wider context of the child's world.

Licensing Criteria Cover

Part A: The Context of Early Childhood Curriculum

A child’s learning environment extends far beyond the immediate setting of the home or early childhood programmes outside the home. Bronfenbrenner, in The Ecology of Human Development (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard, 1979) described it as a set of nested Russian dolls. The learner and their immediate environment are at the centre, the first level. Other levels have a powerful influence on the child’s well-being and capacity to learn. The second level contains the major settings experienced by the learner: the child’s own home, the service or setting beyond their home, and the relationships between these environments. The third level, which also influences the quality of children’s experiences, encompasses the world of work, the neighbourhood, the mass media, and informal social networks. It also includes the conditions that influence the well-being and support of the adults in the children’s lives: the demands, the stresses, and the opportunities for development experienced by significant adults in each child’s life. There is a further national level – the nation’s beliefs about the value of early childhood care and education and about the rights and responsibilities of children. Although Te Whāriki is mainly concerned with the first two levels, the others are important influences on the quality of the curriculum.

The first two levels – the learner and the learning environment – are closely connected, and the curriculum applies to both. A child learns to talk in a setting where adults talk to children and to each other. A child learns to explore in a setting where exploration is valued and possible. Learning is about the way in which children perceive and deal with their environment.

Another aspect of this exchange between children and their environments is the influence of the communities to which children belong. Each community that children belong to makes its own specific curriculum demands: the community of learners who will be able to respond to challenge and change; the community of children who have individual needs and rights; and the community of New Zealanders who are gaining knowledge of the nation’s languages and are developing skills in using cultural tools such as art, dance, mathematics, music, reading, science, technology, and writing.

Person shaped illustration showing the four levels of learning.

Levels of Learning1

  • Based on pp. 22 – 27 of The Ecology of Human Development by Urie Bronfenbrenner. Copyright © 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.