By instructions from the British Government, Governor Hobson appointed a “Protector of Aborigines” to provide for Maori education but little was done until the Education Ordinance of 1847 which set aside one-twentieth of the Colony's revenue for education. Governor Grey, rather than build new schools, preferred to support the three missions already operating, conditional on instruction being given in English, and subject to Government inspection. The 1852 Constitution Act made European education the responsibility of the Provincial Councils but Maori education remained under the Government. The Maori Wars brought an end to Grey's plan, and the Native Schools Act of 1867 provided for the establishment of village schools to be administered by the Native Affairs Department. In 1879 they were handed over to the newly created Department of Education. Once the provisions of the Act became effective, Maori education made rapid strides and regulations published in 1903 compelled Maori children to attend an ordinary school if a native school was not handy. Gradually the syllabus of Maori schools came to resemble that of the public schools until in 1928 the same syllabus was adopted.
In 1955 a National Committee on Education met to examine Maori education. Three of its chief recommendations were:
New Zealand should work towards a uniform system of education for Maori and Pakeha.
An officer for Maori education should be appointed to bring closer coordination among the various organisations concerned with Maori education.
Greater emphasis on Maori culture would be given in all schools.
Many of the Committee's recommendations have already been implemented, and the policy of gradual transfer of Maori schools has been adopted by the Government and the Department.