Waikato Journal of Education

How to Cite

Lee, G., & Lee, H. (2017). A common core for a common culture? The introduction of a general education curriculum. Teachers and Curriculum, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.15663/tandc.v1i1.292


At a time when there is potential for much debate about the 'proper' constitution of a national curriculum for New Zealand schools, it is useful to reflect upon the origins of our current core curriculum and the reasons for its introduction. This paper argues that, coinciding with the election of the first Labour government, there was increasing official agitation for post-primary school curricula to be substantially revised. Departmental officials and some prominent post-primary educators began to assert that an extensive general education (core) curriculum ought to be devised and made more readily available to pupils, and that curricular reform should take greater account of the full range of vocational opportunities available to adolescent boys and girls. The Thomas committee, set up in 1942 to consider these (and other) matter, concluded in favour of introducing a core curriculum common to all pupils regardless of either the type of post primary school they attended or the vocation they intended to pursue. Mason and Beeby - the Minister and Director of Education respectively - lent their full support to the committee's recommendations, and confidentially expected school teachers to view the report sympathetically. This paper concludes that in post war New Zealand teachers did not promptly endorse the committee's education philosophy. The overwhelmingly high public demand for the School Certificate qualification, which led to general education studies often being displaced by vocational subjects, did not assist the cause. These factors, taken together, ensured that curricular reform proceeded less smoothly and more slowly than some of its advocates had anticipated.


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