Chris Hipkins applauded in Parliament for saying he's not 'threatened by Māori history being taught in school'

The Education Minister has been applauded in Parliament for saying he doesn't feel threatened by Māori history being taught in New Zealand schools - and that it should include "the good, the bad, and the ugly".

It comes amid concern from the ACT Party about draft history curriculum that it believes "threatens to indoctrinate students in left-wing ideas". 

Back in September 2019, Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand history would be taught in all schools and kura by 2022, with key themes such as early colonial history and the history of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The draft curriculum content went out for consultation in February, with Education Minister Chris Hipkins saying at the time that the Government wanted to hear from as many Kiwis as possible.

The proposed curriculum includes 'three big ideas' which will remain consistent across different year levels:

  • Māori history is the foundational and continuous history of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Colonisation and its consequences have been central to our history for the past 200 years and continue to influence all aspects of New Zealand society
  • The course of Aotearoa New Zealand's history has been shaped by the exercise and effects of power.

ACT's Education spokesperson Chris Baillie said in a statement on Wednesday that the draft content "threatens to indoctrinate students in left-wing ideas and requires a radical overhaul".

He wants it redrafted to "give an honest and inclusive account of who the New Zealand people are". 

The MP believes the document's 'three big ideas' fail to align with Ardern's promise that the curriculum would promote a "better New Zealand that we can all be proud of and which recognises the value of every New Zealander".

But Hipkins told Parliament on Wednesday that he believes the proposal "embraces the histories of all people who live in Aotearoa New Zealand and encourages school and kura to develop a local curriculum that reflects the histories of their communities".

Baillie asked how having students understand Māori history is the continuous history of New Zealand recognises "the value of every New Zealander".

Hipkins replied by saying that as a Pākehā New Zealander, he didn't "feel the slightest bit threatened by Māori history being taught in our schools and it is something I hope my kids will have the advantage of learning about".

The minister's answer received applause in the House.

To another question about teachers who find the 'big idea' about colonisation "incorrect and divisive", the Education Minister said Kiwis didn't let up. 

"I want to ensure that young people in New Zealand understand all of our history - the good, the bad and the ugly - and a recognition of the fact that we have passed down generations of discrimination that has led to some New Zealanders being disadvantaged in their educational journey, some New Zealanders not receiving the same opportunities as others.

"If our young people leave school with an understanding of that, that will be a damn good thing."

Baillie and Hipkins went head-to-head in Parliament.
Baillie and Hipkins went head-to-head in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub.

Hipkins went on to say the proposed curriculum wasn't "the only thing we will be teaching in schools".

"We will continue to teach economics, we will continue to teach social studies, we will continue to teach geography, all of those other subjects that we want our young people to learn."

In his statement, Baillie said the draft curriculum brushes over other topics, such as economic and constitutional change and New Zealand's role in international relations. 

He referenced a submission on the curriculum by the Royal Society, which provided expertise to the Ministry of Education for it. While it commended some features of the curriculum, it said there were "significant gaps" to be addressed. 

Kiwis can have their say on the draft curriculum content until May 31.