The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9 (December 1, 1937.)
The Secondary Schools of New Zealand
Someone said not so long ago that among the exports from New Zealand, one of the main items was brains. With all its faults, New Zealand's educational system has a proud record in the production of great men in every avenue of human affairs. This achievement has been made in less than a hundred years of cultural history.
It was natural, remembering the men among our forebears who were our pioneer leaders, that New Zealand educational institutions should have been modelled on English lines. The oldest of our secondary schools, Christ's College, is an illustrious example. It is, by the way, older than Haileybury or Clifton, and nearly as old as Marlborough. To-day, with its largesse of creeper covered wall and emerald turf given by our kindly climate, it has the appearance of a thousand years of history. Its Gothic architecture, its buildings clustered about the “Quad” and its picturesque settings have a distinctively English atmosphere. Although there are many classrooms and dormitories that are modern of the moderns, Christ's College could pass for an ancient English public school.
All over New Zealand are schools which already own a proud tradition. Every metropolitan centre has several which vie with each other in sport and scholastic achievement. All the provincial centres and many smaller places have famous institutions. Old Boys' dinners are permanent fixtures and leading features in our lives. Let it be re-remembered that there are many proud and populous Old Girls' Associations also.
Auckland and Wellington have many associations of old boys of southern schools and Christchurch and Dunedin possess many relating to the schools of the North. In London every year there are a dozen or more celebrations by associations of old boys of various New Zealand secondary schools. It is right that Nelson College should be prouder of its erstwhile scholar, Ernest Rutherford, or that Wanganui College should well remember that from within its walls came Sir William Marris. The great church schools such as St. Patrick's or St. Bede's, St. Andrew's, Scots, or King's can point to their contribution to the ranks of the illustrious in all walks of life. Otago and Christchurch Boys' High Schools, Auckland Grammar School, Waitaki, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Timaru, to name a few, have their array of ex-pupils who include not only men who have helped this country in its march of progress, but men who are known the world over.
Nowhere in the world exists a finer college of its type than Te Aute, the leading Maori secondary school, and New Zealand has a comprehensive array of well-equipped technical colleges, not forgetting the two noble institutions devoted to farming science, Massey and Lincoln.
The most eclectic citizen from older lands who is minded to settle in New Zealand, can rest assured that there is available here every type of school which exists in his Homeland. Our boarding schools both for boys and girls are of world parity in staff personnel, modernity of equipment and breadth of outlook.
The writer is always in favour of boarding school training if it is within the scope of the family budget. On this point one would like to say, too, that many boarding schools in New Zealand have a scale of charges so reasonable that it is unlikely any parent could keep the child at home for the same expenditure. A boarding school is a microcosm of the great world into which the pupil will soon emerge. In the small citizenry of a boarding school, the adolescent gets to know the noble and the ignoble, the snob and the sneak, the gossip and the reticent. The society of the school presents a working model of life outside, and gives early the poise which is the fruit of hard experience.
All our secondary schools are equipped with fine playing fields and ample, even luxurious facilities for the playing of all games. These range from football, tennis, croquet, basketball to the more ambitious facilities for riding, golf, and allied open air recreations.
The secondary school in New Zealand without a good swimming bath is a rarity.
A special word should be said of the schools for girls, some of which are set in surroundings of great beauty, most of the leaders being near to pleasant country towns and having, like Solway for instance, the appearance of large country mansions in spacious grounds.
Progress in education in modern times page 8 is a continuing revelation to us of the older times. Many a mother to-day is quietly alarmed at the manifest joy exhibited by her sons and daughters at going back to school. There are no more Dotheboys' Halls. Schools have become fellowships. Friendships form there which endure throughout life, and the rough and tumble of a school career ensures that only the soundest sort of sentiment survives.
The greatest glory of New Zealand can be simply stated. Free secondary education here is available to all, and the phenomenon emerges that half of our primary school pupils go on to secondary tuition.
Time will show what this boon means to the future of our nationhood.
I think we can say with pride that our secondary schools have not only played their full part in the making of skilled practitioners in the profession, the arts, and commerce. Our secondary schools have meant more than a climbing ladder to economic advancement, or the means of training for some particular avocation.
Our secondary schools have played their full part in inculcating the greatest of all lessons, that the only true progress is the advancement of human brotherhood.
Education is the leading of human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them; and these two objects are always attainable together, and by the same means. The training which makes men happiest in themselves also makes them most serviceable to others.