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: Curriculum Implementation
The way in which each early childhood service implements curriculum will vary. Each service will develop its own programmes to meet the needs of its children, their families, the specific setting, and the local community. Programmes will be based on the curriculum principles and be planned and evaluated in terms of the curriculum’s strands and goals.
Adults’ Responsibilities in Management, Organisation, and Practice
Adults are an integral part of the curriculum for the early childhood years. Children’s physical and emotional dependence on adults’ care, support, attention, and guidance is more intense in early childhood than in later years. To enable the curriculum to meet the needs of all children, adults working in early childhood education need to be knowledgeable about children’s development and early childhood curriculum, skilled at implementing curriculum, thoughtful about what they do, aware of their role as models for learning, willing to try alternatives, and well supported by management. Management must ensure that staffing meets requirements and is sufficient to ensure the safety of children at all times and in all situations. Management must also ensure that training is available to enable the adults who work with children to have the knowledge and skills necessary to support the children’s learning and development and to implement the curriculum in everyday practice.
Each strand of the curriculum has implications for the way the early childhood education environment is managed and organised. Management and organisational aspects which influence the curriculum include:
- the arrangement of the physical environment and equipment;
- the scheduling of activities and events;
- the organisational philosophies, policies, and procedures;
- the inclusion and support of parents and the connections with the community;
- the ages of the children, group size, and groupings.
The relationship of each strand to the principles of the curriculum, and some examples of the implications for adult responsibilities in management, organisation, and practice, are provided, strand by strand, in Part C of this document.
Planning, Evaluation, and Assessment
Each early childhood education setting should plan its programme to facilitate achievement of the goals of each strand in the curriculum. There are many ways in which each early childhood service can weave the particular pattern that makes its programme different and distinctive. Early childhood services should, therefore, develop their own distinctive pattern for planning, assessment, and evaluation.
The curriculum has been presented as a whàriki in which:
- learning, development, and the experiences provided for children are interconnected;
- there are elaborations for different age levels and flexibility for different early childhood education settings;
- the strands and goals are woven with different content emphases.
Planning the curriculum whāriki should be a continuing process, involving careful observation, identification of needs and capabilities, provision of resources, assessment, and evaluation. Discussion and debate about planning programmes are a crucial part of the process of improving it, by ensuring that people think about, and are able to justify, their beliefs and practices.
Each programme should be planned to offer sufficient learning experiences for the children to ensure that the curriculum goals are realised. Planning will usually begin from observations of the children’s interests, strengths, needs, and behaviours. Planning experiences or events can focus on the environment, the setting, particular age groups, and on groups of children or individual children (through an IDP or IEP). The focus could also be on a routine or regular happening, such as planning for mealtimes. Planning may be developed to give emphasis to a principle or policy.
Planning should help adults who work in early childhood education to understand what young children are learning, how the learning happens, and the role that both adults and other children play in such learning.
Evaluation and assessment
The purpose of evaluation is to make informed judgments about the quality and effectiveness of the programme. A system of evaluation will ask: In what ways do the human relationships and the programme provide a learning environment which is based on the goals of the curriculum? Evaluative procedures emphasise the quality of provision and make use of all the forms of assessment that can be carried out by both adults and children. Assessment of children’s learning and development will be part of the information needed to evaluate the programme. Evaluation processes will identify whether the environment and programme are providing for the needs of all the children in the early childhood setting. The reflective questions in Part C of this document provide one example of an evaluation process. People involved in providing the programme in each setting should make evaluation part of their continuing dialogue.
The programme will be continually or regularly modified in the light of evaluation, to ensure that it meets the needs of the children within the curriculum goals.
It is important that the curriculum whāriki as a whole, or a particular range of experiences in the programme, are modified if they are not working well to meet the needs of the children and the goals of the curriculum.
The purpose of assessment is to give useful information about children’s learning and development to the adults providing the programme and to children and their families.
Assessment of children’s learning and development involves intelligent observation of the children by experienced and knowledgeable adults for the purpose of improving the programme.
Assessment occurs minute by minute as adults listen, watch, and interact with an individual child or with groups of children. These continuous observations provide the basis of information for more in-depth assessment and evaluation that is integral to making decisions on how best to meet children’s needs.
In-depth assessment requires adults to observe changes in children’s behaviour and learning and to link these to curriculum goals. Assessment contributes to evaluation, revision, and development of programmes.
Children are increasingly able to assess their own learning, to outline their own goals, and to decide how to achieve these goals. They work hard to achieve such goals as learning to walk, forming letters and numbers, and contributing to group interaction. The learning environment should enable children to set and pursue their own goals within the boundaries necessary for safety and to reflect on whether they have achieved their goals.
Assessment of the early childhood environment – its safety, the routines and regulations, the resources and equipment, and adults’ responsiveness – is integral to evaluating the potential of the setting and its programme to encourage particular challenges and activities and to provide for the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of the children.
Assessment of children’s learning and development should always focus on individual children over a period of time and avoid making comparisons between children. Even where there are pathways of increasing knowledge or skill, children’s responses and behaviour will be subject to swings and variations in development according to a number of factors, including where the children are, the people they are with, and how they are feeling. A single observation is a snapshot of that occasion only, and adults should be wary of generalising from individual pieces of information.
It is essential that assessment and evaluation are based on the goals of each strand of the curriculum and that the principles of the curriculum are always applied. The needs of the children, not assessment procedures, should determine the curriculum.
Principles of Te Whāriki and Assessment
Assessment observations and records should provide useful information for children and adults, which helps to improve the ways that the programmes meet children’s needs. Feedback to children on their learning and development should enhance their sense of themselves as capable people and competent learners.
Assessment should be a two-way process. Children’s self-assessment can inform adults’ assessment of learning, development, and the environment by providing insights that adults may not have identified and by highlighting areas that could be included or focused on for assessment. Children may also help to decide what should be included in the process of assessing the programme and the curriculum.
Assessing or observing children should take place in the same contexts of meaningful activities and relationships that have provided the focus for the holistic curriculum. The programme can be evaluated in terms of its capacity to provide these activities and relationships. Assessment of children should encompass all dimensions of children’s learning and development and should see the child as a whole. Attributes such as respect, curiosity, trust, reflection, a sense of belonging, confidence, independence, and responsibility are essential elements of the early childhood curriculum: they are extremely difficult to measure but are often observable in children’s responses and behaviours.
Family and Community
Families should be part of the assessment and evaluation of the curriculum as well as of children’s learning and development. Parents and caregivers have a wealth of valuable information and understandings regarding their children. Care should be taken that, when children are assessed, families do not feel that they are being judged. Observations and records should be part of two-way communication that strengthens the partnership between the early childhood setting and families. It should also be noted that parental understandings and expectations will alter children’s expectations of themselves.
Assessment is influenced by the relationships between adults and children, just as children’s learning and development are influenced by the relationships they form with others. This influence should be taken into consideration during all assessment practice. Adults are learners too, and they bring expectations to the assessment task. The expectations of adults are powerful influences on children’s lives. If adults are to make informed observations of children, they should recognise their own beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes and the influence these will have on the children.