New Zealand Curriculum

New Zealand has a national curriculum that guides what your child learns at school. Your child will develop a range of values and key competencies, or capabilities, that they need to succeed in life. These are all woven into the teaching of learning areas, or subjects.

The National Curriculum is the term used to refer to The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. These set the direction for student learning and guide schools and kura as they design and implement a curriculum that meets the needs of their students.

There is a big focus on reading, writing and maths in the primary years, as these are really important foundation skills that everyone needs in order to be able to do well in life. Children need strong reading, writing and maths skills to progress through the levels of the National Curriculum and be able to achieve NCEA Level 2 or above at secondary school.

The New Zealand Curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum is taught in all English-medium schools (where teaching is in English). This includes state and state-integrated schools.

It has an holistic view of the abilities and skills we want children to gain and includes:

  • an overall vision
  • values
  • key competencies
  • learning areas (or subject areas).

It is guided by a set of principles that are used by schools in their decision making and curriculum planning. The principles are high expectations, Treaty of Waitangi, cultural diversity, inclusion, learning to learn, community engagement, coherence and future focus.


The vision is for young people to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.


Students are encouraged to value:

  • excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties
  • innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively
  • diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages
  • equity, through fairness and social justice
  • community and participation for the common good
  • ecological sustainability, which includes care for the environment
  • integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically, and
  • to respect themselves, others and human rights.

Key competencies

Competencies are abilities and capabilities that people use to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities.

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies 5 key competencies that it has a focus on children developing throughout their time at school:

  • Thinking - is about using thinking processes to make sense of information, experiences and ideas.
  • Using language, symbols, and texts - working with, being able to understand, and making sense of the codes (languages and symbols) in which knowledge is expressed.
  • Managing self - having self-motivation, a "can-do" attitude, and seeing oneself as a capable learner.
  • Relating to others - is about interacting effectively with a range of different people in a range of different situations, including things like being able to listen well, recognise different points of view, and share ideas.
  • Participating and contributing - being involved in communities, such as family, whānau, school, and be able to contribute and make connections with other people.

Learning areas

There are 8 learning areas (or subject areas) in The New Zealand Curriculum:

  • English
  • the arts
  • health and physical education
  • learning languages
  • mathematics and statistics
  • science
  • social sciences
  • technology.

The values and competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum are woven into these learning areas. They are designed to encourage enjoyment of learning and the ability to think critically, manage oneself, set goals, overcome obstacles and get along with others – the attributes students need to succeed as adults.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa is used to design teaching and learning programmes in Māori-medium schools where at least half of the curriculum is taught in te reo Māori.

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa aims to develop successful learners, who will grow as competent and confident learners, effective communicators in the Māori world, healthy of mind, body and soul and secure in their identity, and sense of belonging. They will have the skills and knowledge to participate in and contribute to Māori society and the wider world.

The whānau, the community and the iwi of learners contribute to their education. For them to experience success, the school, the whānau, hapū, iwi and community must work together effectively and consistently. The curriculum upholds the cultural identity and heritage of learners and their families.

Nine learning areas

The 9 learning areas (subjects) of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa:

  • Pāngarau (Mathematics)
  • Putaiao (Science)
  • Hangarau (Technology)
  • Tikanga-ā-iwi (Social sciences)
  • Ngā Toi (Arts)
  • Hauora (Health and wellbeing)
  • Te Reo Māori (Māori language and literature)
  • Te Reo Pākehā (English language)
  • Ngā Reo (Learning languages).

The learning areas ensure a broad general education and lay a foundation to specialise later. 

Schools and kura working with families, whānau, communities and iwi to use Te Marautanga o Aotearoa as the foundation to build a school curriculum or marautanga-ā-kura that reflects their own unique identity, values and vision to meet their students learning needs.

Your child’s school or kura should provide regular opportunities for you to have your say on how the curriculum is taught. Talk to your teacher about how you can be involved.

Progressing through the curriculum

Within each of the curriculum subject areas, most students will progress through levels 1-5. 

Within The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga, the level that each child is learning at will vary compared to the other children in the same year. Once your child has mastered most of the skills, knowledge and understanding of each learning stage within the level, they will move on to the next level.

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