Biculturalism in Te Whāriki

Teacher reading to infant.

Below are some of the bicultural imperatives explicitly articulated in Te Whāriki. For each, consider what are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes you need in order for the imperative to be realised.


Particular care should be given to bicultural issues in relation to empowerment. Adults working with children should understand and be willing to discuss bicultural issues, actively seek Māori contributions to decision making, and ensure that Māori children develop a strong sense of self-worth.

Holistic development

To address bicultural issues, adults working in early childhood education should have an understanding of Māori views on child development and on the role of the family as well as understanding the views of other cultures in the community. Activities, stories, and events that have connections with Māori children’s lives are an essential and enriching part of the curriculum for all children in early childhood education settings.

Family and community

New Zealand is the home of Māori language and culture: curriculum in early childhood settings should promote te reo and ngā tikanga Māori, making them visible and affirming their value for children from all cultural backgrounds. Adults working with children should demonstrate an understanding of the different iwi and the meaning of whānau and whānaungatanga. They should also respect the aspirations of parents and families for their children.


The curriculum should include Māori people, places, artefacts, and opportunities to learn and use the Māori language through social interaction.


Adults working with children should have a knowledge of Māori definitions of health and wellbeing and an understanding of what these concepts mean in practice. Adults should acknowledge spiritual dimensions and have a concern for how the past, present, and future influence children’s self esteem and are of prime importance to Māori families.

Adults should recognise the important place of spirituality in the development of the whole child, particularly for Māori families.


The families of all children should feel that they belong and are able to participate in the early childhood education programme and in decision making. Māori children will be more likely to feel at home if they regularly see Māori adults in the early childhood education setting. Liaison with local tangata whenua and a respect for papatuanuku should be promoted.

Appropriate connections with iwi and hapu should be established, and staff should support tikanga Māori and the use of the Māori language.

Interdependence between children, their extended family, and the community should be supported, particularly for Māori families and their children.

Programmes should enable children and their families to be active participants in their communities, particularly Māori families, and should enable children to learn and grow as part of a community.

Children develop knowledge about the features of the area of physical and/or spiritual significance to the local community, such as the local river or mountain.


There should be a commitment to, and opportunities for, a Māori contribution to the programme. Adults working in the early childhood education setting should recognise the significance of whakapapa, understand and respect the process of working as a whānau, and demonstrate respect for Māori elders.


There should be a commitment to the recognition of Māori language – stories, symbols, arts, and crafts – in the programme.

The use of the Māori language and creative arts in the programme should be encouraged, and staff should be supported in learning the language and in understanding issues relating to being bilingual.

Programmes should help children learn skills valued in their own cultures, such as oral traditions involving listening, memorising, observation, and story-telling in Māori culture.

Children develop an appreciation of te reo Māori as a living and relevant language.


There should be a recognition of Māori ways of knowing and making sense of the world and of respecting and appreciating the natural environment.

Last updated: 21 May 2015