History curriculum 'flawed and divisive view' of New Zealand's past - ACT Party

New Zealand's new history curriculum is creating testing times for teachers and students, new research has found. 

Last year, schools began emphasising local history in the classroom - covering topics such as the Treaty of Waitangi, early colonisation and the New Zealand Wars.    

And while a new report by the Education Review Office (ERO) has found the change to be positive, it's also impacting the teaching of global events. 

Office deputy chief executive Ruth Shinoda said more balance was needed. 

"Teachers are, by the way, really enjoying teaching New Zealand histories - but what we're finding is they're often starting with local events and what we want them to do is also link that to national events... and how that links to New Zealand's place in the world." 

The content being taught was engaging for students, Education Minister Erica Stanford said. However, the report showed there were some issues, she said. 

"The main issue is around the curriculum and how it's written; it's very vague, it's very high-level, it lacks detail and specificity," she told AM on Thursday. 

"What happens... the report has found teachers will teach local content because that's what they're able to pull together, because there's nothing else for them. 

"Then what happens is that you only get taught local content and what we know is, from that report, that twice as many kids say they enjoy history when it's linked to national and global perspectives as well."  

Stanford said the Government planned to bring some balance back to the curriculum. 

"It needs to be knowledge-rich, year-by-year because we saw in that ERO report teachers and principals are calling for it - they're saying, 'Give us more detail, more specificity, support our teachers', so then teachers can get on with the thing that they are amazing at - bringing that content to life. 

"It's less about the delivery - because teachers are great at delivery - it's more about the content." 

ACT, which heavily criticised the new curriculum while in Opposition, has welcomed Stanford's response to the ERO report. 

The party's education spokesperson Laura Trask believed the curriculum presented a "flawed and divisive view of our history". 

"It divides history into villains and victims, contains significant gaps and entrenches a narrow understanding of New Zealand's history," she said in a statement. 

"[The] ERO also suggests the focus on local histories has detracted from national and global issues, and other social sciences. This is concerning. 

"ACT's Coalition agreement secured a Government commitment to restore balance to the history curriculum and we're glad to see the Education Minister acknowledge this in her response to today's report." 

Earlier this year, Labour MP and former Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson said the Government's position on the matter was "a load of nonsense".  

"This is part of the ACT Party's strategy in terms of beating up on Māori. We've got such a rich history in terms of Māori," he told AM in February. 

"There's no balance at all, it's been imbalanced for all my life... let's prioritise indigenous people to start off with."