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Oral History: Getting the Strap
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Oral History: Teachers
Oral History: Games and Sport
Oral History: Clubs and Hobbies
Oral History: Games and Sport

Education: Gendered Schooling

The New Zealand school curriculum was designed to prepare boys and girls for specific gender roles. This became even more explicit in 1910 when the Department of Education imposed greater variation in the secondary school curriculum along strictly gender-based lines. Girls were to be prepared for their future as wives and mothers. From 1917 two hours of home science per week became compulsory for all secondary school girls.

There was a different punishment regime for girls and boys. The boys bore the brunt of a heavy reliance on physical punishment. At primary school the strap was used liberally, not just for bad behaviour, but also for spelling mistakes or incomplete homework. Girls were seldom strapped. Physical (corporal) punishment continued at secondary school. Classroom misdemeanours often meant getting a single blow from a cane while more serious breaches of school rules could earn a boy 'six of the best'.

Woodwork ClassManual training was a highlight of school life for many southern Dunedin children. It meant a half-day away from ordinary school at the Macandrew Road manual training centre. Boys learnt woodwork, girls cooking and sewing. This gender division - and the different life roles it was based on - was not challenged until the 1970s. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

This 1925 photograph shows a home science cookery class at Otago Girls High School. (Otago Girls High School Archives)

PlaygroundPhysical activities and playground games were different for boys and girls. The playgrounds were often divided, sometimes with a solid wall, to keep them apart. Girls and boys also kept apart from choice, in the classroom as well as in the playground. In this posed photograph of Caversham School from the 1890s, however, the pupils and supervising teaching staff are involved in a number of formal games. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Military DrillMilitary drill and organised sports were introduced for boys in the southern Dunedin schools in the late nineteenth century. Schoolboys were trained as soldiers in cut-down versions of military uniforms. This 1909 photograph shows the Caversham School Cadets on parade for 'King and Empire'. (Hocken Library - Uare Taoka O Hakena, University of Otago)

Primary SportsBy the 1920s sports were an established part of school life: rugby football for boys, basketball (netball) for girls. Athletics was popular too, culminating in the annual Primary School Athletics Sports. This photograph shows the 1927 Otago state primary school sports meeting at Carisbrook. (Otago Witness, 15 November 1927, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)


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