Waikato Journal of Education

Abstract

This paper examines a controversial piece of education legislation - the 1975 New Zealand Private Schools Conditional Integration Act - with particular reference to its origins, historical significance, and the debate it has generated. The Act's main feature is that it permitted private, church-controlled schools to integrate into the state schooling system, and to receive full government financial aid. The 1975 'Integration Act' overturned earlier legislation (the 1877 Education Act) which had excluded the possibility of state aid being granted to private schools. Dissatisfaction with the 1877 statute led church authorities, especially Roman Catholic, to petition successive governments from 1878 to secure financial relief on the grounds of ensuring equity and natural justice for their members. Lobbying continued until the early 1970s, when politicians were required to honour recent election promises to seriously contemplate integrating private schools into the state schooling system.

Contrary to politicians' expectations, the 1975 Act did not resolve the state aid dilemma 'once and for all'. Educationists and religious commentators remained divided over the respective functions of churches and the state in educational matters. The debates intensified from 1990 when conservative politicians looked more closely at reducing public expenditure, and expressed concern at the enormous financial costs incurred through integrated schooling. Over the last eight years Ministers of Education have preferred to grant more money to independent (private) schools rather than encouraging integration, although the rising popular demand for access to integrated schools (with the accompanying pressure for further funding) has not been ignored by the present government, who profess support for New Zealanders' right to exercise their schooling preferences.

https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v4i1.483
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