'Ko te ira tangata, he ira atua' : exploring an indigenous Ao Māori early childhood curriculum : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education (Early Years) at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Te Whariki - early childhood curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1996) is New Zealand's, world renowned, early childhood curriculum document. It is widely heralded as a progressive and dynamic curriculum framework for learning and teaching in the early years because it seeks to be culturally, philosophically and developmentally meaningful (David, 2001). Te Whariki is described as a "new conception of curriculum" (Carr & May, 2000, p. 67) where local, national and cultural voices have been able to speak "strongly and loudly" (p.58). However, some Kaupapa Maori early childhood settings, such as Te Kopae Piripono, a Maori immersion early childhood centre in New Plymouth, of which I am a fbunding whanau, have struggled to make authentic connections with the Te Whariki, particularly with its usefulness as a practical working document. This study sought to explore the idea of an Ao Maori (Maori worldview) early childhood curriculum as the basis for planning, assessing and documenting children's learning, in other words, a culturally and practically appropriate "whdriki" for Te Kopae Piripono. The study firstly involved interviewing representatives from four Maori immersion early childhood services about how they negotiate curriculum. It found that Kaupapa M5ori early childhood settings have difficulties relating to and using Te Whariki. Centres therefbre use Te Whariki in different ways and access other curriculum models. The study then sought to explore ideas about what an indigenous Ao MSori early childhood curriculum might look like. This involved interviews with people who have an understanding of indigenous Taranaki knowledge. The study found that an indigenous Ao Maori worldview cannot and should not be seen as a singular, universal concept. Individual iwi have their own existential explanations of the world and the negotiation and re-construction of this local knowledge is a critical part of the process of exploring an indigenous Ao Maori curriculum. It is, therefore incumbent on whdnau of Kaupapa Maori early childhood settings to take responsibility for negotiating their own Ao M6ori early childhood curriculum within a process of engagement and co-construction with their wider context of whanau, hap[ and iwi. The study suggests some principles and concepts with which Te Kopae Piripono might explore its own Ao Maori curriculum. These include the concept of whakapapa as a framework for recognising, describing, and responding to children's learning; and the use of atua dispositions in providing the dynamic detail of the authentic documentation of children's learning. The study also raises questions about the impact that the proposed legislating of Te Whariki might have on this indigenous re-construction of curriculum.
Early childhood curriculum, Maori preschool education, New Zealand preschool education, Early childhood education, New Zealand, Kohanga reo