How Maori disadvantage in society is conceptualized is obviously of critical importance in the formulation of strategies designed to ameliorate these inequalities. In section 1 this essay argues that dominant explanations of Maori inequality in the education system have significant weaknesses because they tend to ignore the fundamental underlying structural causes of Maori inequality. Section 2 provides an account of the processes of white settler colonialism and labour migration which are essential in explaining the emergence and present state of Maori disadvantage. In Section 3 it is argued, firstly, that Maori schooling has functioned structurally as a mechanism of social control to undermine Maori challenges to the dominant class and the emerging capitalist state; secondly it has functioned to reinforce trends in the wider economic context by producing labour power according to the demands of capital. It is argued in Section 4 that the devolution of education administration to the Maori community will do nothing to alter the structural inequalities in wider capitalist society that continually work against the objectives of even the most egalitarian educational systems.