The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Of the many public services in New Zealand, none is more universally popular than the national system of education, which has been in operation since 1877. With the arrival of the first settlers, private school—which in some instances had been begun on shipboard, on the passage out—were established, and these were followed by denominational schools, controlled by the various churches, and assisted out of public revenues. The Provincial Governments set up in each province a system of public education, differing somewhat in principle in each centre of settlement, but for which liberal provision was made. After the abolition of the provinces, the duty of providing instruction for the young fell upon the General Government, and the Education Act of 1877 embodied a scheme of free, secular, and compulsory education for the whole colony; it practically did away with the provincial and denominational systems, and is still in force. In the state schools tuition is free of cost to parents, except in regard to school books; religion is not taught; and it is compulsory for all children, between seven and thirteen years of age to attend school or receive private tuition. Though the Roman Catholics maintain separate schools, and a few other denominational and private schools still exist, the State educates about ninety per cent, of the children. The syllabus comprises reading, writing and arithmetic, history, geography, grammar, drawing, elementary science, domestic economy, and physical culture; boys are also instructed in military drill, and may learn woodcarving, and girls are taught plain sewing and cookery. The colony is divided into thirteen education districts, each under the administration of an elected Board of Education; and each Board receives and expends the capitation grant allotted by the Government from the consolidated revenue. In addition to the primary schools, there are in every district secondary schools; and in the four chief centres there are University Colleges. The free scholarships offered by the Government and private citizens are so numerous that an apt pupil of proved ability is enabled, after leaving a primary school, to advance through the secondary schools and university colleges, at practically no cost to the parents.
The university colleges have professorial staffs of high attainments, and the courses of lectures in the various branches of learning are attended by large numbers of students of both sexes. The University of New Zealand is an examining body, empowered to grant degrees in Arts, Sciences, Law, Music, and Medicine, and its distinctions are allowed to rank with those of Oxford, Cambridge, or any other university in the British dominions.