History changes lauded by education leaders

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By ADAM BURNS, LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER

A North Canterbury school principal says pupils may be apprehensive when the revamped history curriculum is introduced into classrooms.

Kaiapoi High School prinicpal Bruce Kearney, alongside other education leaders, have lauded the changes following years of what he believed was substandard education on New Zealand’s foundational history.

The Aotearoa New Zealand history curriculum will be introduced into classrooms next year after Jacinda Ardern first floated the programme back in 2019.

It will focus on historical topics, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the arrival of James Cook, land wars and colonisation.

“I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done and I’m so pleased that we’re doing it,” Mr Kearney says.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has described the feedback received by the Ministry of education as wide-ranging, clear, and at times confronting after a draft curriculum was road tested last year.

Mr Kearney says some pupils may initially feel uneasy.

“I think they’ll be apprehensive to begin with but as we progress they’ll become more and more excited.

“Traditionally over a number of years, we’ve taught the Treaty of Waitangi very poorly.”

Ex-Belfast School principal and chair of the New Zealand Educational Institute Principals Council, Peter Simpson says the revamped histories curriculum is long overdue.

“New Zealand kids probably know more about the colonial history and Great Britain’s history more than their own history,” he says.

Mr Simpson says he is unsure why it had taken so long to be introduced into schools.

“Why has it taken the rest of our history for [the Treaty of Waitangi] to be acknowledged…I don’t know,” he says.

“If you go back, the New Zealand education system is founded on the English one.

“Why do kids still learn Latin, German and French, how many are going to end up speaking it.

“Te Reo is part of the curriculum and I believe they’re going to use it more, 20 years from now.”

He says there was a potential sea-change on the horizon for the South Island when it came to greater awareness of Kaupapa Maori.

“You only have to look at the cultural and kapa haka festivals and go into schools today to see the kids doing waiata and karakia to know there is a change happening.

“I think it’s fabulous.”

Public Interest Journalism fundedĀ through NZ On Air