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The history of New Zealand education has been transformed in many ways since the colonial period of early 1800s, following the arrival of the Missionaries. The Native School Act (1867) was an influential piece of legislation in New Zealand history for educating Maori Children. It was influenced by the 1844 Ordinance Act and the 1852 Constitution Act which carried the assimilation concept to civilise Maori. The Native School Act took responsibility for Maori schooling away from the missionaries, and established a State system of schooling that the Settlers imposed on Maori. This essay will show how the Native School Act (1867) was influenced by the settlers and will critically examine the political, social and educational context in which the Act was released. Secondly, the essay will explore the intention of the Act and its effects on the New Zealand Education System. Finally, the essay will examine its historic influence and evaluate the impact on New Zealand.
When the missionaries arrived to New Zealand in early 1800s they had major concerns about Maoris' worldviews and values as being uncivilised (Stephenson, 2009). The colonial schooling system, such as mission schools were established particularly to help in the assimilation of Maori and as a mean to social control. Mission schools taught the European style literacy and the Bible all in Maori; therefore, the missionaries had to become bilingual. During early 1840s there was a high rejection form Maori to attend schools and read. It was brought to the governments' attention, how important was schooling for Maori and "... assimilating as speedily as possible the habits and usages of the Native to those of the European population..." (Native Trust Ordiance, 1844). However, government officials saw that missionary schooling had failed to assimilate Maori. Church and State officials worked together to produce a new modified educational scheme that taught an English curriculum. Education Ordinance (1847) accepted the mission schools and provided funding for them, requiring them to conduct classes in English. After settler education was in control, in 1852 the Constitution Act created a system of provinces that were responsible for local interests and services which was all local rather than national (Stephenson, 2009).
During this period, education was left for the provinces' responsibility while they had to deal with urban poverty. It was somehow solved with the Neglected and Criminal Children Act in 1867. They also had to deal with Maori-settler relations and the demand over the land. Land Wars (1845-1872) affected schools causing them to shut down, which indicated that missionaries had not been successful in the assimilation process. Nevertheless, Schooling in the mid 1860s was teaching a curriculum in English as the Maori language had been banned at school "Maori recall being strapped for speaking Maori at school". (McMurchy-Pilkington, 2001, p.164).
The Native School Act (1867) took responsibility for Maori schooling away from the missionaries, replacing mission schools with secular day, state-controlled schools "...their education was considered to be too crucial to be left to the uncertainty of local or missionary providers..." (Stephenson, 2008, p.7). Teaching was restricted to be in English to continue with the process of assimilation (Cumming & Cumming, 1978). The government offered state village schools to the Maori community, when a number of native men requested schools and agreed to contribute financially to costs and fund teacher salaries, in which in return the government provided a school, teachers and resources (McMurchy-Pilkington, 2001) so; Native schools were not free. However, originally the act stated that four thousand ponds should be granted to maintain schools for educating Native Children and half-cast children, who were orphans. In the Native School Act (1867) there has been many social struggles, it states "... Considerable number of the male Maori inhabitants of a school district wrote to the Colonial Secretary asking for a school." According to Barrington & Beaglehole and as cited in Simon & Smith, 2001, that was the requirement for the establishment of Native Schools, where the act showed some discrimination toward Maori women and excluded them from decision-making positions within Maori societies. This was also apparent in the constructed curriculum, where Maori women were taught domestic skills like; cooking, washing, sewing and ironing, Native School Act (1867).
In the meanwhile, a system of school committee management was introduced in the Native School Act (1867) to regain Maoris' confidence (Stephenson, 2009) and give them leadership in schooling. As stated in the act, it was to be annually elected. Therefore, community involvement was a big part of the Native School Act, 1867 (Simon & Smith, 2001). So for the period from 1867 to 1869, Maori received Government approved and funded education through the native schools' system. Maori communities became very connected to the schools and viewed them as their own, where they took care of them and valued them but also tried to change the status of these schools (Stephenson, 2009). While Maori agreed that it is crucial for their children to learn English and be capable to live in a Pakeha dominated community, they were afraid to lose the Maori language and culture and be forced to speak English. Therefore, Maori remained working in labour jobs.
At some stage, when the act was put in 1867, some politicians expressed concerns to protect and promote Maori interests. Others, like Hugh Carleton, according to Simon & Smith (2001), were encouraged by the opportunities that schools presented as a social control and that assimilation can only be carried out by means of 'the structure of the native schools system was to promote Pakeha knowledge as more important and valid than Maori knowledge' (Stephenson, 2008). It was believed that Maori cultural and values were both deliberately and automatically put down, while Pakeha-dominant class ideas and values in the other hand were highly promoted. Central to the native schools' intentions was the restraint of the curriculum, designed to restrict Maori to working-class employment. The native schools' system was strongly competitive for students to gain qualifications for work places For Maori who were in the Native Schools, school certificate was not a part of their system and the curriculum only offered subjects of a practical nature (McMurchy-Pilkington, 2001, p.161). The use of the Maori language in schools was discouraged to continue with assimilating Maori into European culture as fast as they can. Therefore, assimilation continued with Maori being subordinated culturally economically and politically.
Maori moved rapidly towards the urban areas, were they became more in contact with Pakeha, they could attend board of education schools and non-Maori could attend Native Schools, even though the purpose of the Native Schools was originally to providing European education for the Maori. From the 1909 onwards more Maori children attended public rather than Native schools, marking the end of Native Schools.The Native Schools were decreasing slowly but, remained distinct from other New Zealand schools until 1969, when the last 108 Native Schools were transferred to the control of education boards (Ray, 2009).
The Hunn Report of 1960 stated that the Native schools established by the Native School Act 1867 were no longer serving their purpose as Maori had moved away into urban society. Therefore, by 1969 all the "...Native Schools had been absorbed or closed". (Ray, 2009, p.19). Hunn (1960) agreed that full integration of the Maori people into the mainstream of New Zealand education was the single most important policy objective for the New Zealand government to follow in the years ahead. Later in 1962, the Currie Report identified four groups of children who were not provided with equal opportunities in education that was under the control of the state. One of these groups was Maori children then, the physically and intellectually handicapped children, children in rural areas, and children in the new working-class, urban suburbs (Ray, 2009). Statistics showed that in 1975 fewer than 5 per cent of Maori school children could speak Maori as compared with 1955 the percentage was 26, and in 1913 there was 90 per cent (Durie, 1998). Currie commission recommended amalgamation and despite the considerable, deep efforts of resistance amongst Maori in many district to school amalgamation, the last of the native schools were amalgamated in 1969. Education system however remains with their commitment to provide and control education in New Zealand.
From the early 1980s Maori put pressure on government for education policies that would address bicultural requirements (Ray, 2009) with emphasis on the revival and maintenance of Maori language (Codd, Openshaw, 2005). However, Maori waited long enough for the state to respond until they had to take their own initiative to address the problem with the first Maori language captivation programme in 1982 (Ray, 2009). Discrimination against Maori was still evident, although the Maori language was being encouraged from the government (Durie, 1998).
The development of New Zealand's nation-wide system of government in the 1870s led to the end of the provincial education system and the rise of a nation-wide public education system. Looking back, we can see the history of education in New Zealand was filled with discrimination at some point or another, particularly toward Maori in a system that was supposedly committed to egalitarian ideals (Stephenson, 2009). Only a small number of Maori were achieving in schooling, for the majority, many intentions from the all the other Education Acts and since early 1800s till the 1877 Education Act, were most likely not have been met or satisfied Maori communities. Therefore, and as usual, underachievement in education led to social and economic inequalities (Jenkins 1994). Education is never neutral, it is always influenced by social, political and economical circumstances that shape it and draw its history. The essay above critically examined those different contexts in which the act was released and how they played a role on the education system, which is usually controlled by the power of a government or the control of the state, rather than left to personal opportunities. If education is the bond that ties Maori and Pakeha, then quite clearly Maori are able to control and manage their own education if, the dependence they have on Pakeha is reduced significantly.
Maori underachieving in schooling has been the topic since the beginning of education in New Zealand and until today. It is usually influenced by the relationship and interactions between Maori and the State. Although the assimilation policies of New Zealand were changed in the 1980s to recognize the principles of biculturalism and racial discrimination that was apparent for over a hundred year, assimilation cannot suddenly disappear. A strong enterprise and initiatives shall be placed and developed to provide equal opportunities for both Maori and Pakeha. The Education Acts that has been developed since the 1800s, for example, the Native School Act 1867 have actually shaped the New Zealand Education System and without it there would have been no history for us to learn from and build new strategies upon, to meet the needs of everyone. The famous poet and philosopher George Santayana say: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". The Native School Act, 1867 had good intentions of such to educate Maori as well as intentions to civilise them by teaching them Pakeha ways and knowledge, as we saw that earlier in the essay, which somehow impacted on them being discriminated until very recently. Again it allows us to understand how this act was actually critical at that time. For us today, we are left to witness its impact on our education system and how the Maori continued developing and rebuilding their language, beliefs and values and creating the initiatives to do that. It also left us to think about the long-term impact which shall never stop in its positive contribution and empowerment upon New Zealand Education System and Maori Education.