You are here: Home / Important learning and teaching events / Types of curriculum goals / What is curriculum? / The eight essential learning areas

The eight essential learning areas

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

In the latest revision of the New Zealand curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) the eight essential learning areas are defined as follows.


The English curriculum is structured around two strands: making sense of information received (listening, reading, and viewing skills) and creating meaning for others (speaking writing and presenting skills). Success in English is seen as fundamental to success across the rest of the curriculum.


The New Zealand mathematics curriculum is structured in three strands: number and algebra, geometry and measurement, and statistics. It aims to help children to learn how to structure and to organise, to carry out procedures flexibly and accurately, to process and communicate information, and to enjoy intellectual challenge.


The science curriculum is organised into five strands: (a) the nature of science and how scientists work, (b) the living world and ecology, (c) the planet earth and beyond, (d) the physical world (physics) and (e) the material world (chemistry). The aims of the science curriculum are to develop an understanding of current scientific theories, how to use scientific knowledge to solve problems, and how to use scientific knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their own lives and sustainability of the environment.


The technology curriculum in organised into three strands: (a) technological practice where students study concepts, plans, technological models, products and systems, (b) technological knowledge where they study how and why things work, and (c) the nature of technology where they develop an understanding of technology as a discipline, its impacts on society and the environment and the issues raised by these impacts.

Social Sciences

The social sciences curriculum in organised in four strands: (a) identity, culture and social organisation, (b) place and environment and the relationships between people and the environment, (c) continuity and change including past events and experiences and the ways in which these have been interpreted over time, and (d) the economic world where students learn about the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

The arts

The arts curriculum involves students learning to work both independently and collaboratively to construct meanings, produce works, and respond to and value the contributions of others while at the same time learning to use their imagination to engage with unexpected outcomes and to explore multiple solutions. The arts curriculum includes four disciplines; dance, drama, music (and sound arts), and the visual arts .

Health and physical education

The health and physical education curriculum focuses on the well-being of students themselves, of other people, and of society. The area is structured in four strands: personal health and physical development, movement concepts and motor skills, relationships with other people, and healthy communities and environments. Seven areas of study are to be included in each strand: mental health, sexuality education, food and nutrition, body care and physical safety, physical activity, sport studies and outdoor education.

Learning languages

The eighth curriculum area provides the opportunity to learn a language other than the language of instruction. Learning to use the language (communication) is central but this curriculum area also includes knowledge about the language and cultural knowledge.


  • Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Ministry of Education.