In New Zealand’s rapidly changing society, the character and role of education seem likely to require major adjustments both to meet the new demands of the 1990s and the twenty-first century, and to redress the disparities created by past policies and neglect. Towards this end a critical assessment of the institutions, characteristics and relationships of education as it has developed over the past century and a half is surely a prerequisite. Potentially of major importance as part of this general process ls a ‘new wave’ of educational history, conceived not in the traditional way of charting the growth and progress of educational institutions towards an enlightened present, but as a means of assessing the changing relations between New Zealand society and education in its broadest sense. Such a study should be significant for our understanding of education, culture, and New Zealand history, with some bearing also upon future educational policy. It involves a reassessment of the character of educational research no less than active engagement in the scholarship of sociologists and cultural historians.