What (some) families want you to know about Teaching Te Tiriti o Waitangi

What (some) families want you to know about Teaching Te Tiriti o Waitangi

 What do parents want their children to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi? I asked different families their views and got the following responses: 

      • "When, why, what, where and who signed it including pre and post history of signing
      • Age appropriate facts and information
      • Basic when and where the Treaty was signed
      • Everything! They need to know our history!
      • At least the very basics of treaty and how it came about.

Te Tiriti is one of the eight principles of the NZC "The curriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Maori mē ōna tikanga. "

But does that mean we don't have to explicitly teach the treaty? Being a guiding principle and actually teaching about the document are two different things.By principles the MOE is refering to how our schools reflect the ideas of protection, partnership and participation that came from the 1988 Royal Commission on Social Policy. 

It seems schools have been traditionally confused about what this means too, with ERO reporting in 2011 that schools were finding it hard to implement this principle. 

Maybe though the reason it is hard to implement is because we have a hard time understanding the Treaty ourselves and therefore implementing its principles!

If we look at the Social Studies area of NZC we don't see any references in the  primary school curriculum to understanding the Treaty of Waitangi. In fact it could be said that understanding our bicultural heritage is glossed over in the NZC. 

In 2022 it will become compulsory for all schools to talk about Aotearoa's history. The press release from the Beehive, from September 2019, states

“The curriculum changes we are making will reset a national framework so all learners and ākonga are aware of key aspects of New Zealand history and how they have influenced and shaped the nation.” 

They will span the full range of New Zealanders’ experiences and are expected to include:

      • The Arrival of Māori to Aotearoa New Zealand
      • First encounters and early colonial history of Aotearoa New Zealand
      • Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Treaty of Waitangi and its history
      • Colonisation of, and immigration to, Aotearoa New Zealand, including the New Zealand Wars
      • Evolving national identity of Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries
      • Aotearoa New Zealand’s role in the Pacific
      • Aotearoa New Zealand in the late 20th century and evolution of national identity with cultural plurality

Waiting until 2022 to start teaching about the Treaty of Waitangi isn't an option for our children. Parents of children in our care do expect us to be teaching about it.

Of the small number of 8 parents/whānau  I interviewed 6 said that their child/ren were not getting enough teaching about the Treaty. 

I asked whānau: 

"If you could say one thing to your child's teacher/s or kaiako about what you want their child to know what would it be?"

  • Their country's important history and implications of this and impact on our society
  • Ensure if taught it is balanced. I'd be worried about the content being very one sided.
  • Helpful information from reliable sources that can be built upon as they get older.
  • Children need to know the history of New Zealand
  • Please teach our children, we rely on you to do the teaching we can not
  • I would like them to teach the subject of the treaty without any their own personal opinion.
  • I think learning about the damage and how it has been used by pakeha to take power away from Maori is important. How this is so ingrained into nz culture that Pakeha don't even see the privilege they have. An example for me was the Endeavour sailing ship replica that was touring around NZ last year. I had never thought of this historical moment being when white people came and invaded .... until a friend talked about it from their perspective.

That's a pretty big ask! I know that lots of us are doing our very best with limited resources. I've compiled a list of great Treaty of Waitangi Resources here.

Get a free copy of the Treaty of Waitangi Principles Posters for your class or centre here

Also check out:




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