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Home Economics Education in New Zealand: a position Statement

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2. Relationship of home economics within the 2006 draft materials for health and physical education and other learning areas

In the context of The New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Consultation 2006, home economics provides opportunities for students to understand and shape preferred solutions to a range of challenges in their personal, family, community and future work roles.

With the review of the contemporary literature for home economics it is clear that the 1985 Home Economics Syllabus and 1987 senior Home Economics Prescriptions were both visionary in nature and in the vanguard of the new contextual learning paradigm. This ensured an alignment and positive transformation of home economics for the 21st century within Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999), and is reflective in the underlying concepts of “well-being, hauora, socio-ecological perspective, attitudes and values and health promotion”.
The draft New Zealand curriculum learning area of health and physical education (March, 2006) identifies the contribution of three subject areas: health education, physical education and home economics. Significantly, it retains the identification of food and nutrition as a key area of learning and practical food preparation from the 1999 Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum. In light of recent research evidence into health and well-being, the retention of practical food preparation as a context for learning, and possible explicit identification of this as a core requirement, is timely.
Home economics provides learning contexts in selecting, preparing, cooking and serving food to ensure the empowerment of individuals and families to make informed choices in their lives in the most basic of ways. Home economics teaches the importance of critical and reflective thinking about social issues towards enabling optimum health, focusing on how students can be empowered both individually and collectively.

“In this way people could take control of their lives in both paid and unpaid spheres, removing their dependence from others, if they chose. They could be self determining.” (Pendergast, 2004)

Within the 1999 health and physical education curriculum statement the use of the term ‘relationships with other people’ – “interdependence of students, their communities, society and the environment” – suggests the implicit inclusion of the concept of family. In comparison, the national and international contemporary home economics body of knowledge explicitly mentions ‘family’ and ‘families’. In the home economics context the focus is on the understandings of issues that influence, and the actions necessary to improve, the well-being of individuals and families.
The statement for home economics within The New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for consultation 2006 fully encapsulates contemporary home economics thinking:

“In home economics students develop an understanding about the factors that influence the well-being of individuals and families within the home and community, and the actions people take to enhance and sustain those environments. In the context of food and nutrition, students evaluate current issues and theories of nutrition, identify and reflect on factors that influence people’s choices and behaviours, and use this knowledge to make informed decisions. Through the processes of selecting, preparing, cooking and serving food, students develop their creativity and experience a sense of accomplishment at the same time as they develop personal and interpersonal understandings and skills that contribute to well-being.” (The New Zealand Curriculum Draft for consultation, 2006)

There is also a relationship between home economics and the learning areas of technology and social sciences. Many teachers of home economics are also teachers of technology.
Home economics contributes to the learning area of technology through the identified technology of food and the three strands of technological practice, technological knowledge, and nature of technology. However there are fundamental philosophical differences between home economics and the intent of the technology curriculum. The body of knowledge in the health and physical education curriculum’s key area of learning in food and nutrition informs the learning within the context of technology. It is important to take this into consideration when developing programmes of learning to ensure the integrity of both curricula are retained.
Home economics may contribute to the learning area of social sciences, and although some concepts may be shared the learning focus may be different. Careful analysis of the home economics body of knowledge against the final achievement objectives will be required to identify the specific relationships.

3. Relationship to key competencies

The relationship between learning in home economics and the development of the key competencies is addressed in this section.
The essential skills have been revised and integrated into the essential learning areas as key competencies. Key competencies are defined as “generic and needed by everyone across a variety of contexts” (MoE, Curriculum Stocktake Report, 2003).
However, “key competencies do not substitute for domain-specific knowledge. This domain knowledge can be identified in specific competencies identified only in certain contexts. However, specific competencies cannot be used effectively without the key competencies and vice versa” (Rychen, 2002, p. 7). These specific competencies with “key competencies need to be partnered in practice” (Brewerton, 2004). Context and content are both important factors.
Home economics learning experiences enable students to develop competencies, making connections between their daily lives and their future world, and to strengthen their understanding of the interconnectedness of dependence, independence and interdependence within families and society.
Research undertaken by NZCER (Hipkins, 2004; Hipkins & Conner, 2005; MoE, 2005) identifies a philosophical shift in practice and pedagogy for home economics, with positive outcomes for students. This shift includes: encouraging students to clarify their own ideas, make their own decisions, use critical analysis, reflect on their learning, use research tools and strategies, explore issues, encourages discussion, group work, and “ensuring higher order tasks involving the generation, application, analysis, and synthesis of ideas” (Hipkins & Conner, 2005).

Key competencies

Examples of the relationship of home economics body of knowledge (list not exhaustive)

Managing self

Home economics learning experiences enable students to:

  • manage their learning process through setting personal goals and plans and reflecting on outcomes

  • develop self-awareness and recognise how their decisions may affect health and well-being of themselves and others

  • develop competency in the specific skills and

knowledge related to food selection and preparation to

enable informed nutritional choices.

Relating to others

Home economics learning experiences enable students to:

  • develop mutual respect, tolerance and co-operation in a safe learning environment

  • foster socialisation skills through sharing food prepared with others in the home economics classroom

  • increase their understanding of the importance of working together to promote structures in society

  • interact confidently with others to discuss social issues affecting the health and well-being of families, community and the wider society

  • enjoy working with others in the selecting, preparing, cooking and serving of food

  • develop an awareness and sensitivity of their own cultural identity and the cultures and values of others

  • plan strategies and demonstrate interpersonal skills to communicate appropriately with others about making health-enhancing food choices.

Participating and contributing

Home economics learning experiences enable students to:

  • develop an intellectual curiosity and interest in social issues, for example, globalization, healthy schools, family demographics and the implications for society, food security, and management of resources

  • apply problem-solving strategies in purposeful ways, both in situations where the problem and the solution are clearly evident and in those requiring creative and innovative thinking to achieve an outcome

  • use strategies to take action and meet personal and collective challenges to address issues that affect the well-being of themselves and others

  • make positive contributions to their learning

community, family and wider community.


Home economics learning experiences enable students to:

  • use the critical action cycle and appropriate research tools and strategies to explore social issues related to personal, family and community health and well-being

  • make informed decisions, solve problems and take actions that will contribute to their own well-being and that of others

  • recognise and value different points of view in discussion and debate

  • discuss issues and solutions with both dialectic and trialectic thinking approaches within different contexts related to family and community, food and nutrition issues

  • develop the thinking skills to enable life long learning.

Using language symbols and texts

Home economics learning experiences enable students to:

  • use appropriate spoken and written language to articulate their ideas

  • use reasoned argument to actively participate in informed debate on issues, for example, those related to basic family needs and broader issues related to ecological sustainability and social justice

  • understand and apply language associated with critical action models

  • interpret and use symbols and instructional text in food preparation

  • apply and analyse mathematical concepts related to nutrition, food choice and budgeting

  • use and interpret visual, verbal and written language in the promotion of food and food products.

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