The National Curriculum

What students learn at state and state-integrated schools and kura in NZ is guided by an National Curriculum framework.

What is The National Curriculum? 

The National Curriculum is two documents that provide a framework for state and state-integrated schools and kura in New Zealand use to develop teaching programmes that are relevant to their students. It sets out what is important in the education of our children. Its purpose is to develop the skills young people need for study, work and in life so that they can realise their potential.

Primary and intermediate schools and kura begin delivering the National Curriculum and secondary schools continue it at the higher levels.

The two documents are:

  • The New Zealand Curriculum – used by for English-medium schools
  • Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – used by kura (Māori-medium schools)

What is the New Zealand Curriculum?

The New Zealand Curriculum is taught in all English-medium state and state-integrated schools.

It has a 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.

See a full description and diagram of the Directions for Learning(external link).


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 five 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 make 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 eight 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 all 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 the curriculum taught in Māori-medium schools where at least half of the teaching is in Māori. The aim is to develop successful learners who are competent and confident, effective communicators in the Māori world, healthy of mind, body and soul, and secure in their identity and sense of belonging. Students will have the skills and knowledge to participate in and contribute to Māori society and the wider world.

Learning areas

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa has nine Learning areas:

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

Te Marautanga o Aotearoa recognises that the whānau, community, and iwi of learners all contribute to their success in education. The curriculum upholds the cultural identity and heritage of learners and their families.

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.

What are the curriculum levels?

There are eight levels in the National Curriculum that stretch from Year 1 through to Year 13. Each level represents a learning stage in that learning area (subject).

Most Year 9 to 13 students will be learning between the curriculum levels 4 to 8. Your teenager may be at a different level for different learning areas, for example, they may be working at curriculum level 4 in mathematics and level 5 in technology. Once your child has mastered most of the skills, knowledge and understanding of each stage they will progress to the next level.

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Further information

The National Curriculum documents have a wealth of information about what your child learns throughout their school life and can help to recognise and understand the learning that is happening at school these days.

You can read more about the National Curriculum on the Ministry's Te Kete Ipurangi web portal for education.

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