New Zealand’s government on Wednesday proposed that all children learn the history of Māori people and British colonization in a set course that teachers must follow, ending a system where schools choose how those subjects are taught.
Supporters of the change say the country’s history as currently taught tends to gloss over atrocities against indigenous people during colonization, while critics say the new curriculum would fail to present a balanced view of the past.
“Let us teach it, let us learn it and let us remember it. Let us share our history with every student in every school…,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said as she released a draft of the course, which she plans to introduce next year.
Māori, who account for about 15% of New Zealand’s population, were dispossessed of much of their land during colonization by Britain. Thousands of Māori protested for civil and social rights in 2019, and have criticized successive governments for not doing enough.
Speaking on a visit to the site of an 1846 battle between the British and Māori at Ruapekapeka, Ardern called on the public for feedback on the draft, which supporters say reflects a renewed recognition of Māori history and culture.
The proposed curriculum includes the arrival of Māori in New Zealand, early colonial history, immigration and colonization of New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi – a founding treaty that was signed between representatives of the British Crown and more than 500 Indigenous Māori chiefs in 1840.
Paul Goldsmith, spokesman of the opposition, conservative National Party, said the draft was “lacking in balance and needs revision.”
“How did we make a living as a country? How, in such a short space of time, did we attain one of the highest living standards in the world?”
“Those basic questions don’t feature prominently. They deserve much more than a passing reference,” said Goldsmith.
New Zealand marks Waitangi Day on Saturday, which is named after the Waitangi region in the North Island of New Zealand, where the founding treaty was signed.