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Ten Trend: Cultural narratives

What’s this Trend all about?

A cultural narrative describes what is unique about the place and the people your educational setting is part of. In the New Zealand context, a cultural narrative recognises the histories of and by mana whenua (tribes who have territorial authority over land), their sacred places, their interactions with the land and their ways of being as a people. It helps build a common understanding of their values, their heritage and their traditional and spiritual connections to the land and the environment. 


The cultural narratives of the mana whenua embodies the essence of who they are. It supports authentic engagement with whānau, hapū and iwi, because it invites all these groups; to not only contribute their stories, and also invites them to be able to participate as mana whenua on the lands their tamariki are educated on.


What’s driving the change?


Part of our Aotearoa national story that has contributed to the relative invisibility of Māori heritage, language and culture in education started with the 1867 Native Schools Act. This act established a system of English only secular village primary schools charged to assimilate Māori into Pākehā society. Over time this led to a loss of language, culture, identity and with it, cultural stories. Working in a  more inclusive culturally responsive way with Māori, can help address the disparities and barriers that exist within the education system.     

For a school in Aotearoa New Zealand, embracing the cultural narrative of mana whenua represents a commitment to an enduring partnership that is built through open conversations consistent with two world views. It shows you recognise the status of mana whenua, you value their knowledge and ways of being and therefore schools who embrace these stories are upholding their place in the treaty partnership, giving mana and giving value to the Treaty.         


What examples can we see?


In this video, Cultural narratives are entwined with science and environmental studies in Earth Education at Ngunguru School we see cultural narratives are entwined with science and environmental studies in Earth Education at Ngunguru School. The EarthEd programme aims to embed the role as protectors of the environment (kaitiakitanga) into the everyday life of students, and is more than just educating about the environment. Through this school wide programme students develop meaningful and authentic connections with the local environment and local history, and with the earth.


In this story at Te Kura o Take Kārara with facilitator Darran Ingram we see power of shaping a Marautanga-ā-Kura in partnership with local iwi.


Te Kura o Take Kārara (Darran Ingram)



How might we respond?

What cultural narratives are woven into the fabric of your learning community’s collective history? Whose voices to these stories represent? We’d love to hear more. Simply join the Ten Trends group and feel free to contribute below.

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