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How might the principles of Te Whariki, the early childhood curriculum, contribute to global citizenship education (GCED)?

In other articles we examined what global citizenship education looks like in the strands of Te Whāriki. This time we explore how the principles may give us some insight into what global citizenship might look like for young children.

Te Whāriki, the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood curriculum, has four principles:

  • Empowerment | Whakamana

  • Holistic Development | Kotahitanga

  • Family and Community | Whānau Tangata

  • Relationships | Ngā Hononga

Te Whāriki framework diagram.

Ministry of Education


If we want young people to take responsibility as global citizens, empowerment is essential. The Empowerment/Whakamana principle in Te Whāriki supports ākonga to be the best they can be. It involves affirming and respecting their language, identity and culture and supporting them to do the same for others. It is about giving children increasing control over their world in ways that are safe and affirming.

Some books that help children realise they have control and can make a difference:

  • Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

  • Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

  • Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson 


  • In what ways are you supporting ākonga to take risks in a way that is safe for all?

  • What activities might support ākonga with developing respect for language, identity and culture – their own and that of others?

  • How can kaiako support ākonga to make a difference in their community?

Holistic development

Ākonga are more than the sum of their parts. The Kotahitanga/Holistic development principle of Te Whāriki encourages us to look at all aspects of a child’s development, how they interrelate and how they can be nurtured. 

Mason Durie’s whaiora Te Whare Tapa Whā is a useful model here. It encompasses four dimensions of wellbeing: 

  • Taha tinana (physical health). 

  • Taha wairua (spiritual health). 

  • Taha whānau (family health), which includes immediate and extended family, friends and community.

  • Taha hinengaro (mental health). 

Everything is connected to the whenua (place where you stand/belong).

Ensuring that all aspects are nurtured and taken care of has strong links to global citizenship.


  • How are you supporting ākonga to care for their physical, spiritual, family and mental health?

  • In what ways can ākonga take care of their environment?

  • What activities could promote ākonga caring for the wellbeing of others?

Family and community

The Family and community/Whānau tangata principle of Te Whāriki tells us that ākonga do best when their culture, knowledge and community are affirmed. Understanding and respecting their own culture and that of their community is an essential starting point for global citizenship.

Some picture books that celebrate family, difference and diversity:

  • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

  • Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye

  • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

  • What Does It Mean to Be Global? by Rana DiOrio

  • The Family Book by Todd Parr

Some te reo Māori readers online:


  • How are you developing links between your centre, kura or school and families?

  • In what ways are ākonga in your school, kura or centre developing relationships with their community?

  • How are you linking to local and community cultural events?


The Relationships/Ngā hononga principle of Te Whāriki tells us, “Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places and things.” A key aspect of being a global citizen lies in those responsive and reciprocal relationships and involves taking responsibility for the way our actions impact people, places and things. Young children are naturally curious – they are born with an avid interest in the world around them. As they explore their world, their relationships with people and places around them are strengthened.

Books about relationships and responsibility:

  • Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed

  • I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Refiloe Moahloli

  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

  • One Boy’s Choice: A Tale of the Amazon by Sueli Menezes

  • The Trees and Me by Bianca Begovich

  • Whetu the Little Blue Duck by Jennifer Beck


  • What projects could ākonga be involved in that will help develop responsive and reciprocal  relationships with people and places in their local community and beyond?

  • How can we support ākonga to understand the impact, both positive and negative, of their interactions with the world around them?

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