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PM: Launch of the New Zealand Curriculum

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Launch of the New Zealand Curriculum

Hutt Valley High School
Woburn Road, Lower Hutt

10.00 am
Monday 15 October 2007

It is a pleasure for me to be here today to launch the new New Zealand Curriculum for our schools.

The launch of the new curriculum is a very important event, because of the critical importance of education to our society.

Education helps us to reach our full potential as human beings. It has strong intrinsic value. It enriches our lives as individuals and as a society.

It helps us understand more about the world around us and our place in it.

It helps us develop the skills we need to function well in our lives in a fast changing society and economy.

For New Zealanders to live and work confidently in a knowledge society requires the development of new skills and knowledge. It needs a culture of continuous inquiry, creativity, innovation and improvement, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship.

Our school curriculum can help us achieve these outcomes. It is the basis for what is taught and what we learn at school.

The new curriculum begins with a statement of vision for the development of young people.

That vision sees young people being confident, well connected, active participants in society, and becoming life long learners.

To realise that vision, the curriculum is based on clear principles. It supports, for example, high expectations for students, inclusion of all, the acknowledgement and valuing of our nation’s bicultural foundation and our current diversity, and a focus on the big issues of the future.

The curriculum is also underpinned by clear values. Students are encouraged to value excellence; to think critically, creatively, and reflectively; and to value fairness, diversity, participation, sustainability, and integrity.

Then the curriculum sets out the key competencies which we expect our students to develop in school.

They include the ability to think; to use language, symbols and texts; to be self motivated; to relate to others; and to participate and contribute in their communities.

English is recognised in the curriculum as the medium for teaching and learning in most of our schools, but New Zealand’s two other official languages, te reo Maori and sign language, are also appropriately acknowledged.

As well, a companion document on curriculum for education in the Maori medium will be released for consultation soon.

The curriculum specifies eight broad learning areas : English, the arts, health and physical education, languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences and technology.

Each is introduced by a broad statement about its importance, the value of studying it, and how the learning area is structured.

Thereafter, the outcomes of achievement in each learning area at each of the eight levels of the curriculum is specified.

Guidance is given for effective teaching and assessment, and the responsibilities of boards of trustees are set out.

As well, guidance is given to schools on how to apply the framework of the New Zealand Curriculum in their own context and community.

More than 15,000 students, families, schools, communities, and educators were involved in development of the Curriculum. It draws on our own and international research on competencies, values, and subject areas. In response to the draft released for comment, more than 10,000 submissions and two critiques from international educators were received.

I am pleased to say that the feedback received was overwhelmingly supportive of the direction of the draft, and it is reflected in the final document we are launching today.

This new national curriculum has replaced seven curriculum documents with one. It gives a clearer direction on what it is important to learn at school; for example on which knowledge matters, on which skills matter, and on which values we should hold dear and believe our schools should instil in young people.

The advice to government is that a single New Zealand Curriculum will be easier to review and adapt in future as society changes and as new knowledge emerges for incorporation in the curriculum.

An important goal of the new curriculum is to lift student achievement, and encourage students to stay at school longer.

The latest Schools Sector Report shows that only one in ten students left school with little or no formal attainment in 2006. That figure is down from one in five students in 2002. This improvement, which happens to follow the introduction of NCEA, is a huge accomplishment considering that there had been little progress in lifting achievement levels over the previous twenty years.

While these results are heartening, it is important to keep a strong focus on lifting achievement. At the weekend I indicated that the government is looking closely at the age to which young people should be required to be in formal education or training, and how to boost their levels of achievement while they are there.

This policy development also encompasses further work on personalising education, redesigning education for the 21st century, and upskilling the workforce.

By making learning more personal, we enable students to be active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge. Thus we enable them to develop the skills needed to live, learn, work, and contribute to their schools, their communities, and to New Zealand.

The aim is to develop people who can approach a new problem and use the knowledge they already have to find a solution.

The aim is to develop people who can research and experiment to discover information for themselves, and to consider it critically.

The aim is to develop people who can ask good questions, as well as give good answers.

This new curriculum outlines how schools and communities can make that happen. Its development is a milestone for our education system.

Now that the Curriculum has been launched, schools will have a lead in time of approximately two years to implement it. From now until 2010, they will be supported to do that through workshops, on-line resources, and other school based support.

I wish our teachers and schools well in taking the new curriculum forward, and I wish our students well in learning within the framework it establishes.

It is now my pleasure to launch the New Zealand Curriculum.


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