Strengthening a Tiriti Based Curriculum: A blog by Carol Marks

For related professional learning check out Carol’s Online Workshops on this topic HERE, or contact us for a more individual learning opportunity for your and your team.


About This Blog

My intention for writing this Blog is to gather evidence of ongoing evidence of ongoing professional inquiry into strengthening my own understanding of a Tiriti based curriculum and how this would be reflected in daily practice.

I would love to have continued dialogue and stretch thinking with teachers to support this learning and my staff appraisal. My inquiry question ” How do I advocate for the development and implementation of a Tiriti-based curriculum?

5 October 2020

Ko Te Whāriki te mokopuna. Ko te mokopuna Te Whāriki.
Te Whāriki is the child. The child is Te Whāriki

I love this photo of my mokopuna Sophia meeting her wee brother Nikau – Tarewa for the first time. Her emotions and feelings are so obvious just as it is for family members in all whanau as they interact with their loved ones. Dame Tilly Reedy reminds us that central to the learning as you step into an early childhood centre is the Mokopuna. This is such an important concept to Maori and as we as kaiako recognise all children as our mokopuna we recognise the importance of relationship in deep and meaningful ways that make a difference to children’s learning.

This is one of the important messages from Te Tiriti, recognising the mokopuna from every walk of life and nationality, to have their reo and their culture acknowledged. This is central to Te Whāriki.

In Dame Tilly’s words – Mana Atua, my sense of godliness that neither you or anyone else can trample, Mana Tangata, Who am I? Recognise me.

Mana Reo – Te Whāriki allows everyone to have their own reo, Mana Whenua- turangawaewae, this makes me who I am and where I stand, the importance of the land, Mana Aotearoa – to care for the land.

These wise words can help us to weave what is meaningful to whanau within our curriculum, underpinned by the values within Te Ao Maori.

Here is Dame Tilly’s korero:


Te Whāriki reminds us that weaving our whāriki takes time, skill and knowledge and a child is a whāriki as well ‘work in progress’. As we work in our teams with tamariki and whanau we will be questioning practice and understanding what our practices may be doing for tinana (body), hinengaro (mind), wairua (spirit) and whatumanawa (emotion). p, 9

8 June 2020

Partnership can be strengthened in different ways

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the context  of Te Whāriki is about the relationship between Māori and the Crown, and Pakeha  and included in that is everyone who has come to join us on these islands, our shared obligations, and our shared aspirations for today and tomorrow.” (Brenda Soutar 2018)

The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and calls for centres to understand and honour Treaty principles in all actions and decision making. It is about making our country’s  bicultural  foundations evident in policies,  organisation, physical spaces, whanau and community engagement and planning and assessment.

Te Whariki may be one framework but there are two pathways moving us closer to equity for Māori through an indigenous model Te Whariki a te Kohanga Reo and a Treaty based pathway that ensures a bicultural curriculum for all.

I was talking to a teacher this week whose inquiry this year through her appraisal was to focus on whether the relationships with whānau were deep enough to form a quality partnership. Even though whānau were greeted and conversations shared, she would return again and again to continue the dialogue and was rewarded with so much more warmth and interaction.

I was listening to Moana Jackson on a Livechat on Facebook this week when he gave caution about the word ‘Consultation’ when implementing Te Tiriti and suggested instead we implement ‘meaningful dialogue’, this is what this teacher has done.

This is about sharing stories, not just touching the surface where the single story of a culture may lie but rather going deep into the rich novel that has language, culture and identity woven within.


16 January 2019

Assessment, a mana enhancing process

Mā te ahurei o te tamaiti e ārahi i ā tātou mahi.
Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.

As we weave our own curriculum and keep abreast of current theory, the alignment between Te Whariki, Te Whatu Pokeka, Reggio Emilia and kaupapa Maori becomes evident when strengthening assessment for tamariki. You may be wondering why this comparison and for the centres who follow the Reggio Emilia approach, they may not have realised the close alignment between our curriculum and Reggio practice. So lets think about the similarities between Te Whariki and Reggio Emilia when it comes to our assessment practices and recognise the impact on tamariki when pedagogy is based on relationships (co-contruction) and listening and made visible and supported through the process of writing learning stories. It is through this pedagogical documentation that learning processes can be shared, discussed, reflected upon and interpreted (formative assessment).


When kaiako think deeply about wise practice permeated by cultural values the alignment between Reggio and kaupapa Maori is strongly evident. Reggio’s choice is to take the image of the rich child, “an active subject with rights and extraordinary potential and born with a hundred languages.” (p,17)

Te Whariki reminds us that assessment for all children will be consistent with the principles of Te Whāriki.
“Assessment will be a mana-enhancing process for children, parents and whānau, conducted in ways that uphold the empowerment | whakamana principle. and assessment takes account of the whole child – tinana, hinengaro, wairua and whatumanawa .

Children have increasing capacity to assess their own progress, dictate their own learning stories, and set goals for themselves (for example, learn to climb something, write their name, pursue or expand an interest or project or lead a waiata). As they learn to assess their own achievements they also become increasingly able to plan new challenges, for example, transferring their learning to a new context, taking on a new responsibility, strengthening a disposition, extending their knowledge or skills, or refining an outcome.” (p,66) Where tapu is the potential for power, mana is the power, the realisation of the tapu of the child. The mana of a child is derived from their links with ngā atua. The spiritual powers are their immediate source of mana (mana atua) – they are the source of the child’s tapu; they come from their iwi, hapū, and whānau (mana tangata) and from their land, their tūrangawaewae (mana whenua). The mana of a child needs recognition and must be nurtured. Rameka (2003) said that children actively participate in their own learning and become active participants and co-constructors of knowledge. In this way, children are considered to be social beings located or embedded within cultural communities. So within our assessment we recognise Funds of Knowledge, that is based on a simple premise: people are competent, they have knowledge, and their life experiences have given them knowledge. Everybody has a story and when a story moves us it changes our perspective on things, it adds to our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Te Whatu Pokeka reminds us that children have the seeds of greatness within them. They are the culmination of generations of chiefs and rangatira. They therefore cannot be viewed as being needy or from a deficit model.

So, our learning stories need to grow authentic connections between people places and things encouraging teachers to think deeper about the learning stories they write and how the things children do in the centre relate to their local community and whanau. Each child who steps through your doors will bring with them a story……lots of stories, even at their young age. How we interpret those stories, how we open our hearts and minds to those stories is something you may like to investigate further as part of your appraisal process, keeping in mind that you will be strengthening your understanding and providing evidence of meeting the Standards as Learning Stories should also be used as evidence of your teaching practice and the growing and stretching of practice in your Inquiry e.g.

Principle 2: Protection—protecting and enhancing the wellbeing, identity and self- concept of the tamaiti (child) Under the treaty principle of protection, the tamaiti is at the core. This principle acknowledges the importance of protecting and enhancing student self-concept and cultural identity by utilising strengths-based and holistic approaches to overall health and wellbeing. Ka Hikitia reiterates the importance of “realising Mäori potential” by focusing on strengths and when we ensure that this happens within our practice and assessment practices the principles of Te Whāriki will be strongly connected to te Tiriti o Waitangi; the learner is the centre of teaching and learning. (Te Whāriki p, 54)

I particularly like the words of Carlina Rinaldi when writing about assessment that “gives value to the children themselves , as they can encounter what they have done in the form of a narration, seeing the meaning that the teacher has drawn from their work. In the eyes of the children, this can demonstrate that what they do has value, has meaning. So they discover that they ‘exist’ and can emerge from anonymity and invisibility, seeing that what they say and do is important, is listened to, and is appreciated: it has a value.” Certainly a mana enhancing process.



Giudici,C. & Krechevsky, M. (eds) (2001) Making learning visible: Children as individual and
group learners, Cambridge, MA: Project Zero and Reggio Emilia: Reggio Children.

Rameka, L. K. (2003). Cultural values and understanding as quality outcomes for early
childhood. In Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference. Conference held at
Arizona, USA.

Rameka, L. K. (2003). Kaupapa Mäori learning and assessment exemplar project. In 14th Annual Conference on Quality in Early Childhood Education. Conference held at Malta.

Ministry of Education (2017). Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa/Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington: Mātauranga House

Ministry of Education. (2009). Te Whatu Pōkeka: Kaupapa Māori Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.

30 September 2018


I have just finished reading “Changing the default setting: Making trouble to restore tikanga” by Ani Mikaere, a thought provoking article that highlights how colonial constructs have been superimposed over traditional tikanga practices over time, driven these to be used on the marae only and the powerful role that Christianity has had over tikanga as well, normalising concepts of dominance and subservience.

Dare I say that these practices continue in some of our early childhood centres and schools today. I was in a centre recently where there is strong Maori kaupapa but also practices that reflect past Western practices around compliance and dominance by the adults, lining up in rows according to gender, following instructions given by adults when eating with little thought about how this leads to life long learning or how these practices could be challenged in light of the rest of the curriculum.
Or am I wrong here? This could well be part of inquiry within appraisal as kaiako unpack their practice under the Standards, there is scope to challenge practice and the difference between compliance and self regulation that can be strengthened in a whanau setting where collaboration and thoughtful discussion with the underlying concept of ‘ako’ underpinning interactions. As Ani says “The net of kāwanatanga—of Pākehā law, of Western philosophy, of values that threaten the very core of our Māoriness—has indeed been cast wide. We cannot afford to ignore the degree to which we have become enmeshed within its strands. We need to be honest with ourselves about the extent to which tikanga has been caught up in the stranglehold of the colonising agenda. Then, and only then, might tikanga be liberated to achieve its limitless potential.

[In Te Whāriki] children are valued as active learners who choose, plan, and
challenge. This stimulates a climate of reciprocity, ‘listening’ to children (even if they cannot speak), observing how their feelings, curiosity, interest, and knowledge are engaged in their early childhood environments, and encouraging them to make a contribution to their own learning. Smith (2007)

8 February 2018

Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa. The Child – the Heart of the Matter

Today when I visited a centre where children from mixed ages were able to play together I reflected on the joy of two brothers who were able to be together when they wanted to be and the teina had the emotional support of knowing his ‘big bro’ was there and the tuakana was happy to see his brother content. Good for the soul, for their wairua and mauri. Comforting for the whanau as well. I was reminded of my own grandchildren several years ago attending childcare. Their Mum who is Maori, and myself both wanted the same thing, to have all three siblings being able to be together, the youngest was a baby and the oldest would have been just over three years old. The distress that would have been felt by any one of these children if they had been apart was something we wouldn’t accept. We found a centre where children could mix from birth to school age and the values had been thought through deeply by Management and kaiako.

Fast forward several years and another grandchild, also with a Maori Mum, looking for key teaching so that the rhythms of her child would determine her care as opposed to the routines of the day that are often in place to meet the needs of the teaching staff. Needless to say she is back at the same centre where ERO has also recognised strong pedagogy and they have had a four year return.

It is up to each and every one of us to ensure Te Tiriti o Waitangi underpins our practice and this means that having a bicultural curriculum also means ensuring that values play an important role in our practice and our documentation. Te Whatu Pokeka, p,19 states; ‘The child is part of the whānau and the whānau is part of the child. One cannot be separated from the other. The child learns within the context of whānau, which is a real-life context. It is not a socially contrived environment such as the early childhood service. Learning occurs first in the whānau and it is the whānau that determines the learning that is valued’.

Keeping siblings together is an example of whanaungatanga or connectedness and Manaakitanga: Caring, sharing, displaying kindness, supporting others, ‘being a friend’ and reflect aroha in it’s true sense and as we weave Our Standards through our practice and our appraisal we can explore deeply and widely our assumptions and beliefs about practice. When we think about sociocultural practice where children learn within their families and community they are not separated so in centres where age groups are separated is there allowances made for when a child needs comfort from a sibling?

“Attitudes held by early childhood education teachers towards te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and the valuing of Mäori culture in their daily practices vary considerably (Ritchie, 2005). Attitudinal challenges driving implementation challenges stem from a combination of factors occurring at the individual educator level, including: a lack of knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Ritchie, 2002); hyper-sensitivity about levels of personal cultural competency (Ritchie, 2005); the reluctance to speak te reo Māori for fear of giving offence; and the entrenchment of outdated recolonising and universalist thinking about child development that fails to take account of sociocultural influences and the political nature of early childhood education (Education Review Office, 2010). This combination leads to a level of superficiality in the application of te reo Mäori me ōna tikanga and Māori pedagogies in the early childhood education sector and, in some cases, the rendering of Māori language and culture as invisible and irrelevant “(Rameka, 2003). Ngä taonga whakaako: Bicultural competence in early childhood education • November 2011 Pg 31

He whāriki hei whakamana i te mokopuna, hei kawe i ngā wawata
A whāriki that empowers the child and carries our aspirations


Te Whāriki reminds us that weaving our whāriki takes time, skill and knowledge and a child is a whāriki as well ‘work in progress’. As we work in our teams with tamariki and whanau we will be questioning practice and understanding what our practices may be doing for tinana (body), hinengaro (mind), wairua (spirit) and whatumanawa (emotion). p, 9


Wednesday 22 November 2017

“Knowledge and matauranga is a blessing on your mind, it makes everything clear and guides you to do things in the right waya…. and not a word will be thrown at you by the people” Eruera Stirling of Te Whanau -a -Apanui.

He was in effect talking about respecting tikanga Maori and its general guidelines of acceptable behaviour.

Where once tikanga Maori was binding by the majority of Maori this is no longer the case but is being revisited by many.

In early childhood centres it is important for kaiako to realise to strengthen Matauranga Maori or Maori knowledge, we need to have a better understanding of tikanga Maori.

Embedded in the values of Our Codes, Our Standards is Manaakitanga: creating a welcoming, caring and creative learning environment that treats everyone with respect and dignity.

You would think this was a given being such an important aspect within human relationships. But is it?
Are whanau members and manuhiri truly welcomed into your centre and given the time to be listened too and offered hospitality?

Spending time in a centre that has so many whanau members participating, reading stories, preparing kai for shared lunch each day, adding to wall displays and enjoying each others company, the Head teacher explained “kai is the answer, it brings them in” but it is more than that.
What I recognised was that these people had a real sense of belonging, they were valued for who they were, a whanau member and manaakitanga was alive and well.

In the book Culture Counts by Russell Bishop and Ted Glynn is the following statement “Learners can bring ‘who they are’ to the learning interactions in complete safety, and where their knowledges are “acceptable” and “legitimate”. Not just in our schools but in other places in society including early childhood centres.

“It cannot be stressed enough that manaakitanga is always important no matter what the circumstances may be” (Hirini Moko Mead p.29)

One indicator of Manaakitanga is that kaiako demonstrably care about Maori learners, what they think and why. As Our Code, Our Standards will now be the new measure for kaiako for appraisal, we need to be thinking of the ways that we meet this indicator and can prove it through our practice and assessment.

Once again it gets back to Relationships underpinning our practice, making a difference for the children and families who enter our doors every day ensuring that aroha is practised, an essential part of manaakitanga.

I have attached a link to a fearning story that also appears on the ELP website, written by Whaea Rina from Maungaarangi Kindergarten and Whanau Centre.
Whaea Rina acknowledges the wider whanau as well as welcoming Raiha, a story that reflects Manaakitanga


Weaving a Whāriki

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Recently I had the privilege of listening to Mari Ropata-Te-Hei, the conceptual designer of the cover of the updated Te Whāriki and to have an insight into her thinking.

Mari talked about the spiritual connections to whakapapa for flax and the purposes that it is used for, gathering seafood, muku (clothing) and the harder flax being used to make whāriki.
Mari looked at the conceptual connections for the child and that working in centres is the same process as making a whāriki.

Weaving is a central metaphor in Te Whāriki so what does this mean for you in the context of your Te Whāriki journey?

A whāriki isn’t woven by one person, we need to work as a group. Reggio Emilia also remind us that pedagogy needs to be woven with the practices of the centre. Teachers work together, there is no hierarchy but a need to listen to each other.

There will be different perspectives and collaboration as you work with the pattern that makes your whāriki unique. There will be overlapping of ideas, principles and strands and the strength of it is based on previous touches.
Everything connects but you will be weaving one strand at a time.
Weaving a whāriki takes knowledge, skill and time.
Building relationships, interconnections, nurturing and supporting whanau first for the child to move forward.

On this day we also worked together in small groups to weave our own whāriki, only seeing the underside until it was finished. Mari likened this turnover ceremony as being symbolic for the child when learning has strengthened in some way or maybe transitioning to school. It also made us reflect on the impact of personal daily relationships and practice that impacts on the whāriki but this won’t be obvious until a later time.

The open weave in part of the diagram depicts a journey that hasn’t ended and shows the continued weaving of the curriculum.

“The whāriki can also symbolise the child – a ‘whāriki in progress’. When used with this meaning, the colours and patterns of the whāriki represent the child’s developing capabilities across four dimensions of development: tinana (body), hinengaro (mind), wairua (spirit) and whatumanawa (emotion).” (Te Whariki p.9)

WHAKAMANA: empowering all learners to reach their highest potential by providing
high-quality teaching and leadership, strengthening learner identity by valuing a child’s home culture and language.
I have posted a video of Tilly Reedy “Central to the learning is the Mokopuna, from every walk of life, very nationality, every indigenous group.

How are you weaving your whāriki to ensure;

Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa
The Child – the Heart of the Matter ?


Gabriel’s Wellbeing

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Our Code, Our Standards states “We recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a
founding document of our nation. As teachers, we are committed to honouring Te Tiriti o
Waitangi and we understand this has implications in all of our practice.

This is what Te Whāriki says about the Treaty i -“Te Tiriti | the Treaty has implications for our education system, particularly in terms of achieving equitable outcomes for Māori and ensuring that te reo Māori not only survives but thrives. Early childhood education has a crucial role to play here, by providing mokopuna with culturally responsive environments that support their learning and by ensuring that they are provided with equitable opportunities to learn. The importance of such provision is underscored throughout Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum.

Ka Hikitia is another document that guides us in our practice.It offers schools and teachers practical applications of core principles that provide a foundation for culturally responsive practice. Ka Hikitia means “to step up, to lift up or to lengthen one,s stride. It means stepping up how the education system performs to ensure Maori students are enjoying and achieving education success as Maori.This strategy acknowledges the importance that values, identity, language, and culture play in a Maori learner’s education’ The five guiding principles of this strategy are The Treaty of waitangi; Maori potential approach; Ako-a two-way teaching and learning process; identity’ language and culture count; and productive partnerships.

Working with a policy framework like Ka Hikitia runs the risk of becoming a new compliance requirement rather than a broad commitment to improve education for Maori learners and if we are to make a committed difference to the learning outcomes for Maori then it is our attitudes,thinking and behaviours that must change so this framework will be effective.

I was reading a learning story this morning at a centre where teachers have reflected on the pedagogy that impacts on the happiness and learning for their Maori tamariki. This story was about Gabriel’s taonga, a beautiful book about the story of his journey as a premature baby along with photos of his whanau.

Embedded in this story were the words Whanau where life begins and Aroha (love) never ends. This story within his portfolio will add to such a meaningful learning journey that will strengthen the image he will have of himself as a learner and as a person, a child deeply loved by his whanau and having this taonga also treasured by his teachers. It is also an example of Tīkanga whakaako: Learning and teaching within a Māori context based on whanaungatanga and nurturing the child, the soul , within a Maori context and strengthening the relationship between Gabriel and his whanau in such a meaningful way. It also is a lovely example of the principle of Family and Community underpinning the curriculum.

The wider world of family and community is an integral part of early childhood curriculum

Me whiri mai te whānau, te hapū, te iwi, me tauiwi, me ō rātou wāhi nohonga, ki roto i te whāriki, hei āwhina, hei tautoko i te akoranga, i te whakatipuranga o te mokopuna
This learner identity can strengthen in many ways and as Nathan Mikaere Wallis reminds us, this is the important learning for children up until the age of seven.

Sunday 6 August 2017
Some thoughts as I start my blog….

My background as a New Zealander, brought up in the King Country with many Maori friends at school together from early Primary through to High School. They used to buy me lollies from the school tuck shop, they were my mates and we shared good times together.
Schooling was the same for us all with no reference to culture or past NZ history that affected family and whanau through World Wars and the breaking in of a young country, the falling of forests and I can still remember the large scale burning of fallen bush to create new farm land.
No mention of who our land may have belonged to that was given to my Grandfather as a ballot when returning from the Boer War although Maori were part of the community, they shore our sheep and were always involved in seasonal work. Mum said they were always there, the largest Pa site “Gateway to Taranaki’ once stood on the high hill of our farm boundary.
No reference to past land wars during our school days so ignorance was bliss, there was nothing to worry about, we were all one, schooling was for the good of all.

As I look back on these idyllic days I can now reflect on the severe changes over time for Maori whanau, sixty years ago many of these families were still living rurally within whanau based communities, changes that forced many whanau members to move to the cities to find work wasn’t foreseen but coming to understand NZ history and the harsh realities of losing land, ways of being and doing, te reo outlawed in schools and culture marginalised I can only but guess at the hurt and anguish engrained on heart and soul for many Maori that were part of my life. As time has passed I have come to realise that education for Maori was driven by policies, strategies and initiatives designed to assimilate Maori into the dominant European group (Simon and Smith 2001) culture was not considered an important factor in Maori succeeding within education.

So just some background thoughts as I start this shared journey and looking forward to strengthening my own practice. Quoting Jenny Ritchie;

“teachers recognising that “they cannot be expert in another person’s culture if they do not share that cultural background” and that “non-Māori cannot speak for Māori”. Non-Māori teachers create opportunities for Māori to voice their perceptions and are committed to listening and responding to them”

I am here to learn from others and look forward to sharing our thoughts on strengthening language, culture and identity and ways to strengthen our bicultural curriculum Te Whāriki underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Below is a link to the resource that guides my teaching practice.

Having these standards as part of this blog will assist me in lining up my ideas with the individual standards and may also help readers understand my thinking.

Our Code Our Standards | Ngā Tikanga Matatika Ngā Paerewa

The Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession has been crafted by teachers, leaders and teaching experts to articulate the expectations and aspirations of our profession.
The Code sets out the high standards for ethical behaviour that are expected of every teacher; the Standards describe the expectations of effective teaching practice. Together they set out what it is, and what it means, to be a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Code and Standards apply to every certificated teacher, regardless of role or teaching environment. The Code also applies to those who have been granted a Limited Authority to Teach.

Stay Informed!