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In the recent past, New Zealand/Aotearoa has been undergoing anidentity repositioning process that basically recognizes the centralplace and history of the Maori people. Previously, New Zealand hasused a rather foreign identity as signified by the name “NewZealand” and western culture courtesy of the British settlers asopposed to the culturally and historically correct “Aotearoa”which is Maori. Under education circles, the same repositioning hasbeen taking place with English being replaced by Maori as thelanguage of instruction in some schools. The education system in thecountry has adapted an approach that fulfils the Maori-basedperspective and the international-based perspective of educationhence the name bi-cultural approach. In early year’s education, theTe WhÄriki approach is used which is largely Maori-context based butborrows from international theories of education as this discusses.

The relationship between different educational theories andassessment practices

Assessment practices are largely a concept of the internationaltheories of learning. Assessment offers a chance to teachers toprovide feedback, grade students, assess the efficiency of learningstrategies among others. In essence, focus is on place on academicexcellence with no methods developed to assess non-academic mattersuch as discipline, relating with others, respect and so forth. Onthe contrary, Te WhÄriki approach looks at learning both as anacademic activity and as a socio-cultural one based on the Maoriculture. Assessment practices must thus respect the multiculturalapproach and assess academic and non-academic learning. To assess,academic learning, tests are used while non-academic learningassessment incorporates the family, community and teachers inassessing the learners. This differs strongly with the internationalperspective where community and parents do not participate inassessing students.

Te WhÄriki’s five principles of learning areempowerment-Whakamana, holistic development- Kotahitanga, family andcommunity- Whānau Tangata and relationships- Ngā Hononga. However,these principles have been altered or modified a bit to fit withcontemporary education al theories. For instance, in ECE theMontessori and Rudolf Steiner approaches are integrated into the TeWhÄriki approach. Alternatively, in other cases the curriculum isbased on contemporary education theories and Te WhÄriki isintegrated in it.

The relationship between assessment and the principles of TeWhāriki

Assessment under Te WhÄriki has to cover the content taught under TeWhÄriki approach As such, assessment is based on measuring thelevels of empowerment, relationship, holistic development and familyand community. Under empowerment, students should record improvementin their sense of themselves as entities and belief in their abilityto learn and achieve. Under relationships, assessment measures thestudent’s level of development in relating with educators andfellow children. As for family and community, the assessment has toinvolve family members and community to rate the developments ofstudents. The holistic assessment incorporates all the issues andother development matters in life.

Purpose of assessment in Aotearoa/ New Zealand contexts

Under Te Whariki approach, there are two main purposes of assessmentthe assessment of learning and the assessment for learning. Theassessment of learning is aimed at measuring what the students havelearned which is tied to the learning objectives set out in the TeWhariki. Students are required to demonstrate by answering specificquestions that they have gained a certain amount of knowledge and cando it in practice what has been gained from the learning process.Assessment for learning on the other hand, focuses on assistingteachers identify areas of improvement and weaknesses in the studentslearning. This therefore, informs the teachers and the institutionson the efficacy of the learning process and tells whether enoughsupport is being given to support student’s learning. This showsthat the approach in Aotearoa is geared in developing students allround other than academics alone.

Compared to the international perspective on assessment, Te Wharikigoes beyond just pure learning. According to Gibbs and colleagues(2003), the internationally accepted functions of assessment are 1)generate marks and grades in order to make fail/pass decisions 2)generate student learning activity 3) focus students attention tolearning 4) assist students internalise discipline and equalitystandards 5) generate evidence on appropriateness of course andlearning strategies and 6)provide feedback to students.

The learning that is foregrounded in a sociocultural approach

The social cultural approach was first developed by Vygotsky in 1986and improved later on by other scholars. The theory basically assertsthat higher order functions develop through social interaction asopposed to developing out of cognitive and chronological growth. Thistheory has a wide range of implications on teaching, schooling andeducation policies. The key that has been adapted in a number ofcurriculums in the world asserts that a child’s development cannotbe assessed as a stand-alone but rather in conjunction with thechild’s development. In fact, Vygotsky (1934/1986) describedlearning as being embedded within social events and occurring as achild interacts with people, objects, and events in the environment&quot(p. 287). Therefore, any change in a child’s social environmentwill impact his/her development.

A feature of this theory as posited by Vygotsky is the zone ofproximal development. Vygotsky defined this as s the distance betweenthe actual development level as determined by independent problemsolving and the level of potential development as determined throughproblem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with morecapable peers (1978, p. 9). This means that the teachers and adultsin a child’s life can provide learning opportunities by linkingproblem solving abilities unknown to the child with the problemsolving abilities known to the child in handling simpler problems.


It is clear that the Te Whariki approach in learning starting fromthe ECE stage up to the higher stages is well regulated and focussedin developing students in whole. Although the approach shuns too muchemphasis on academics alone, it however strategically incorporatesspecific international perspectives in academics give a wholesomeapproach to learning. The bicultural context has also enriched theapproach to make it fit to the New Zealand context. Nonetheless, itis clear that the sociocultural approach forms the basis of TeWhariki which is contextualized to adults and community and alsoincorporating some international approaches to learning such asassessment.


Ako Artearoa (2014). Purposes of assessment. Retrieved online on03/18/14 from,

Gibbs, G., Simpson, C. &amp MacDonald, R. (2003). Improving studentlearning through changing

assessment – a conceptual and practical framework. Retrieved onlineon 03/18/14 from,

Ministry of education (2014). Retrieved online on 03/18/14 from,

Te Whariki (2014). Retrieved online on 03/18/14 from

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: development of higherpsychological processes. New

York: Harvard University Press.