ERO’s reports of 2011 and 2012 indicate similar pictures of the enactment of the curriculum principles into schools’ and classrooms’ curricula. It is clear that in some schools, leaders and teachers have not considered the curriculum principles to be a high priority in curriculum review and design. In many schools the initial response to curriculum review had been to develop the school’s expectations for individual curriculum areas. Many of these schools were still in the early stages of developing a coherent approach to the curriculum as a whole and ensuring it reflected the curriculum principles.
Some confusion is evident around the different intent and role of the principles, values and even the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum in improving outcomes for all students. Rather than using the principles as a starting point for curriculum design, they have often been something that has been grafted on to the curriculum retrospectively, if they have been considered at all. In secondary schools, the approach continues to be learning area specific, with many of the principles having little impact across the curriculum.
The principles most confidently enacted by teachers and schools are those that encapsulate what has been long considered as good pedagogy, such as high expectations, learning to learn and inclusion. They have been an existing part of schools’ approach to teaching and learning rather than an outcome of curriculum review.
It is encouraging that progress is evident in recognising Treaty of Waitangi obligations. This may be an outcome of Ministry of Education professional development initiatives. There is a need for more such initiatives to develop teachers’ appreciation of the significance and value of all the curriculum principles, with a particular focus on promoting cultural diversity and developing understanding of the principle of future focus.
Three curriculum principles, in particular, are not well enacted in many schools. The future focus principle is not well understood. Schools, while generally inclusive of student diversity, appear to lack the knowledge to use this as a rich teaching and learning resource and of the ways in which to value and celebrate diverse languages and cultures. Many also do not offer a cohesive approach to teaching and learning that enables students to see the links across the learning areas and provides them with clear and consistent pathways across their time at school. Many schools without a focus on the principles in their curriculum had not accessed external professional to help them understand the significance of the principles and the priorities they should consider when developing their school curriculum.
Students have the right to participate in learning programmes that put them at the centre of teaching and learning. These programmes should provide them with coherent pathways to future learning. They should expect to be supported, challenged, and treated as capable learners who are able to reflect on their own learning processes and the knowledge and experience they bring to this. Their parents and whānau should have opportunities to be active participants in their learning. Students should have the opportunity to learn through contexts that acknowledge, respect and celebrate their unique social and cultural experiences and interests. In schools that are enacting the principles it is likely that students’ learning is helping prepare them for their role as citizens who will contribute to shaping the future of both Aotearoa New Zealand and an interconnected world.