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ERIC Number: EJ1080247
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 40
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0311-2543
The New Zealand District High School: A Case Study of the Conservative Politics of Rural Education
Lee, Howard
Education Research and Perspectives, v32 n1 p12-51 2005
From the late 1860s, when they were established in New Zealand, the district high (now area) schools have sought to provide academically able rural youth with the opportunity to study a high status, abstract, examination-oriented curriculum. This curriculum enabled them to pursue clerical and professional careers in the towns and cities. However, much to the annoyance of the Department of Education, its Directors and successive Ministers of Education who expected these schools to offer rural-oriented, practical, vocational courses leading to employment in the local economy, the district high schools instead adhered to an academic curriculum that was indistinguishable from that of the urban secondary schools. Their purpose was to provide the means for academically able pupils to improve their lift opportunities. Unable until the mid-1940s to reach any consensus regarding the type and extent of curricular reform required in the post-primary schools in general, and the district high schools in particular, the district high schools remained relatively isolated, ambiguous if not problematic institutions (being neither primary nor secondary per se). Notwithstanding their restricted staffing and teaching capacity, rural communities knew that the route to their children's economic, occupational and social advancement was closed to those without the all-important academic examination credentials. Predictably, they steadfastly resisted any proposal that hinted at abandoning high status, abstract, academic examinable knowledge. In short, the demand was for access rather than reform. This was something that educational bureaucrats and administrators have had to learn to accept, albeit grudgingly. The current Minister of Education (Trevor Mallard) has yet to grasp this reality at a time when many small rural schools throughout New Zealand have been threatened with impending closure. Finally, the lesson to be learned from exploring and analysing the historical development of rural schooling in New Zealand (and elsewhere) is that the community perception if what constitutes "worthwhile education" for youth, in almost every instance, will win out over the official view(s) of educational bureaucrats, administrators and politicians.
University of Western Australia. 35 Stirling Highway Crawley, Perth, 6009 Australia. Tel: +61-8-6488-2388; Fax: +61-8-6488-1052; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New Zealand
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A