This paper explores the European attitudes and policy toward the education of Maori in New Zealand. From the period of the settlers, educational policies towards Maori were characterised by the ideology of equality. However, in the New Zealand context, this ideology was strongly assimilative in its implication. It is this aspect that I wish to trace through historically. Educational policies were introduced with the aim to bring the Maori into line with European civilization through the use of European models in schools. From 1880 the growth of the Native Schools had been steady until the separate Maori schools were finally amalgamated with the mainstream system in 1969. With the advent of the 1970s, the whole issue shifts into another gear with a rapid increase in the input from the Maori communities themselves. Policy statements began to show a move toward the diversity model. So despite over 150 years of educational endeavour in the field of education for Maori children, there is a sense in which the debate has only just begun. The major dilemma in the debate is the tension that exists between the desire for political and economic equality, and the desire for the preservation and maintenance of ethnic cultures.