Physical Education and the New Zealand Curriculum: Maximising the Opportunity

Article excerpt

Abstract

Curriculum revisions and other Ministry of Education initiatives implemented over the past two decades have drastically changed schooling in New Zealand. In particular, the 1999 release of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand (Ministry of Education, 1999) required significant shifts in both teachers' thinking and practices of school-based Physical Education. While many teachers made these shifts, others did not, and now, nearly ten years on, teachers have another curriculum to contend with - The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). In this paper I briefly discuss some of the challenges and promises that Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999) has afforded before interrogating the possibilities yielded and those arguably 'lost' for Physical Education in the recently released New Zealand Curriculum. I conclude by suggesting that the 2007 curriculum document does not necessarily advance the cause of Physical Education nor address the deficiencies of the 1999 Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum in ways that it might have.

Key Words: physical education; New Zealand curriculum; Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand curriculum; pedagogy

Introduction

In 2007 the Ministry of Education released The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) (Ministry of Education, 2007). For teachers of Physical Education, this new curriculum emerged almost a decade after the release of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999) - a document that required a substantial shift in both the thinking and practice of Physical Education in schools (Culpan, 2000). As one of the writers of this 1999 curriculum, I would consider it most regrettable if Physical Education had missed an opportunity to extend and push ahead with new and fresh thinking, capture new directions, address problems evident in Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (NZHPE) (Ministry of Education, 1999), and provide and articulate a bolder and stronger futurist voice.

The purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which the above-outlined opportunities have been addressed. To begin, I briefly map the key aims of the 1999 Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (NZHPE) and trace some of the developments that have influenced teachers' capacity to realise its potential. Next, I assess the relative merits of the newly released The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). I suggest that, while there are certainly positive aspects to this curriculum, there were significant opportunities in its development to advance the field of Physical Education that were not taken. To conclude, I claim that the profession may have lost an invaluable opportunity to revise and rework the curriculum in ways that remedy the deficiencies of the prior document.

Background

In 1999 NZHPE was released after a prolonged gestation period. Since the release of this document, a number of scholars have contributed to commentaries associated with its development, its worthiness, and its critique (Bruce and Culpan, 2005; Burrows, 2005, 2004, 2002; Burrows and Wright, 2001; Culpan, 2005, 2004, 2000,1996; Culpan and Bruce, 2007; Education Forum, 1998; Gatman, 2005; Hokowhitu, 2004, 2004a; Lind, 1997; Ross, 1998; Ross and Burrows, 2003; Salter, 2000, 2000a; Wright, 2004). While it is not my intention to review the arguments contained within these scholarly commentaries, I do wish to suggest that the discussions, debates, seminars, professional development programmes, conferences, and other symposia throughout New Zealand emerging after the NZHPE curriculum's release can usefully be regarded as manifestations of Macdonald's metaphor relating to curriculum development. As she puts it:

Curriculum change can be likened to when a stone or tree branch hits the iron roof of a chook house. …