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 Curriculum Whāriki for New Zealand's Children

The curriculum is provided by the people, places, and things in the child’s environment: the adults, the other children, the physical environment, and the resources. The curriculum integrates care and education and includes both specifically planned experiences and activities and interactions that arise spontaneously. The early childhood curriculum has been envisaged as a whāriki, or mat, woven from the principles, strands, and goals defined in this document. The whāriki concept recognises the diversity of early childhood education in New Zealand. Different programmes, philosophies, structures, and environments will contribute to the distinctive patterns of the whāriki.

Distinctive patterns will come from:

  • cultural perspectives, such as in kōhanga reo or various Pacific Islands early childhood centres;
  • structural differences, such as in sessional or full-day programmes;
  • organisational differences, such as in kindergartens or child care centres;
  • different environments, such as in home-based or centre-based programmes;
  • philosophical emphases, such as in Playcentre, Montessori, or Rudolf Steiner programmes;
  • different resources which are available in urban and rural settings;
  • the ways in which the local community participates;
  • the age range of children in the programme.

Decisions about the ways in which bicultural goals and practices are developed within each early childhood education setting should be made in consultation with the appropriate tangata whenua.

Including Children with Special Needs

Care and education for children who have special needs is provided within the diverse range of early childhood services. The curriculum assumes that their care and education will be encompassed within the principles, strands, and goals set out for all children in early childhood settings.

Activities will be age appropriate and developmentally appropriate and will enable children with special needs to be actively engaged in learning. An Individual Development Plan or Individual Education Plan (IDP or IEP) will be developed for any children who require resources alternative or additional to those usually provided within an early childhood education setting. Objectives for an IDP or IEP will be realistic, useful, and of value to the child and family. The programme will provide activities to meet the specified objectives, and the equipment necessary to promote independence. Te Whāriki is designed to be inclusive and appropriate for all children and anticipates that special needs will be met as children learn together in all kinds of early childhood education settings. The programmes of each centre will incorporate strategies to fully include children with special needs.

Distinctive Contexts

There are many distinctive contexts representing particular kinds of early childhood care and education, each with a specific identity and focus. All the principles, strands, and goals set out in this curriculum are designed to apply in each context.

Two distinctive contexts specifically identified in this document are:

  • Māori immersion programmes
  • Tagata Pasefika programmes


  • Māori immersion curriculum
    • The idea of a Māori immersion curriculum has emerged, grown, and been nurtured through kōhanga reo and is now developing for school-age Māori children in kura kaupapa Māori (Māori language immersion) schools and in bilingual units and classes. This document recognises the distinctive role of an identifiable Māori curriculum that protects Māori language and tikanga, Māori pedagogy, and the transmitting of Māori knowledge, skills, and attitudes through using Māori language.

  • Tagata Pasefika: Pacific Islands early childhood centres
    • Some groups of migrants from the Pacific Islands have established early childhood centres to keep their different cultures and languages flourishing in their communities in New Zealand. Because of the diversity of Pacific Islands cultures, there is no single Pacific Islands curriculum, but there are historic links in language and culture, and there is a common geographic heritage. Examples suggested in this curriculum, while focusing on Pacific Islands early childhood centres, also demonstrate possible models for other ethnic groups who wish to support their cultural heritage within the early childhood curriculum.