New Zealand's education system aims to develop young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners. The ECE system seeks to empower and develop children holistically, helping them to make links and develop relationships while discovering different ways of seeing the world. The ECE sector's curriculum is known as Te Whariki.

All licenced early childhood centres in New Zealand use this framework as the basis for their programmes. Te Whariki  recognises the importance of a child's home and immediate community in early learning and it encourages connections to be made between the people and settings in the child's life.

Te Whariki sets out four broad principles, a set of strands, and goals for each strand.  Below is an outline of these.


1. Whakamana – Empowerment

The early childhood curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.

2. Kotahitanga – Holistic Development

The early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.

3. Whanau Tangata – Family and Community

The wider world of family and community is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum.

4. Nga Hononga – Relationships

Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things.


Strands and Associated Goals

Strand 1. Well-being – Mana Atua

The health and well-being of the child are protected and nurtured.


Children experience an environment where their health is promoted; their emotional well-being is nurtured; and they are kept safe from harm.

Strand 2. Belonging – Mana Whenua

Children and their families feel a sense of belonging.


Children and their families experience an environment where: connecting links with the family and the wider world are affirmed and extended; they know that they have a place; they feel comfortable with the routines, customs, and regular events; and they know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

Stand 3: Contribution – Mana Tangata

Opportunities for learning are equitable, and each child’s contribution is valued.


Children experience an environment where: there are equitable opportunities for learning, irrespective of gender, ability, age, ethnicity, or background; they are affirmed as individuals; and they are encouraged to learn with and alongside others.

Strand 4: Communication – Mana Reo

The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected.


Children experience an environment where: they develop non-verbal communication skills for a range of purposes; they develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes; they experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures; and they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.

Strand 5: Exploration – Mana Aoturoa

The child learns through active exploration of the environment.


Children experience an environment where: their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised; they gain confidence in and control of their bodies; they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking, and reasoning; and they develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical, and material worlds. 

 Information from:


A copy of Te Whariki is available from the Ministry of Education: Ministry of Education