Given the December 2015 consultation on the Education Act 1989, and the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into new models of tertiary education, it seemed timely to take a closer look at the history of New Zealand’s education system. 

As part of our TalentNZ project we have created a timeline titled Timeline of significant events in the history of education in New Zealand, 1867-2014. This timeline tracks the history of change across each of the education sectors: early childhood, primary and secondary, and tertiary. The timeline spans from the passing of the Native Schools Act 1867 through to legislative changes that have occurred within the last two years.

Accompanying the timeline will be Working Paper 2016/02: History of New Zealand Education. This working paper will expand on the key dates explored in the timeline, and provide a historical record for future development and research on New Zealand’s education system.


We believe that education, at its most fundamental level, is about growing talent so that people can live happy and rewarding lives. In other words, the primary focus should be on educating to live well rather than educating for employment. This is much broader than simply growing talent so that young people can get jobs. It means we need to focus on ways to develop character traits and teach skills and ethics that align with the challenges and opportunities ahead. We need to find ways to help young people navigate their future alongside the futures of their family, their iwi, their community and their country. 

The TalentNZ initiative explores how Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision, for New Zealand to be ‘a place where talent wants to live’, might be achieved. To follow this project, or to keep up to date with the progress of Working Paper 2016/02, please subscribe to the TalentNZ newsletter, published every two months.