What for the future, from learning the past?

Exploring the implications of the compulsory Aotearoa New Zealand histories curriculum





history curriculum, secondary history, New Zealand histories, subject choice, teaching history


Important curriculum development work has progressed since the 2019 announcement that Aotearoa New Zealand histories would become compulsory learning across all schools. Much effort has gone into considering how learning ‘our’ histories can engage, inspire and empower children in schools through years 1 to 10, and recent writing has focused on how to address challenges in building knowledge and capability to meet those aims. However, what will be the effects beyond those years? Will students still be drawn to choose history in their senior school years, or will they be ‘over it’? In a quest to gauge the implications of the new curriculum, our research team surveyed secondary school history students on their motivations and areas of interest in learning history, and their views on Aotearoa New Zealand history becoming compulsory for Years 1-10.

Findings from our research confirmed that students’ past engagement with history influenced their ongoing interest, motivation and understanding of the subject. However, the positive learning that had drawn them to history was often about everyone else’s history rather than their own. Students identified international histories – often involving war or conflict – as favourite topics. So, while most supported the implementation of the new curriculum, they equally expressed concern that the local focus should not be at the expense of wider perspectives. They felt history could become repetitive and boring; elements which could put students off engaging with history in future.  We conclude by presenting important considerations for ensuring such negative impacts do not occur.


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Author Biographies

Carol Neill, Auckland University of Technology

Carol Neill is of Ngāti Mahuta descent. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Auckland University of Technology.

Rachael Bell, Massey University

Rachael Bell is a Lecturer of History in the School of Humanities, Media, and Creative Communications at Massey University.

Michael Belgrave, Massey University

Michael Belgrave is a Professor of History in the School of Humanities, Media, and Creative Communications at Massey University.

Peter Meihana, Massey University

Peter Meihana is of Rangitāne, Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa, and Ngāi Tahu descent. He is a Senior Lecturer of History in the School of Humanities, Media, and Creative Communications Massey University.

Geoff Watson, Massey University

Geoff Watson is an Associate Professor in History in the School of Humanities, Media, and Creative Communications at Massey University.


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