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The chapter above on "Demographics" presents the statistics on education in Hawaii that are now available to the Commission. This chapter will review the historical development of the educational system in Hawaii. It will include criticisms of the system, review programs that have been initiated specifically for native Hawaiians, and discuss native Hawaiian participation in the educational community.


Early Background

Formal education as practiced in the United States began in Hawaii after the arrival of the Protestant missionaries in 1820. Before that time, learning was passed down orally from one generation to another. For the commoners (maka 'ainana) this process generally involved learning the trades from elders. The ali'i were instructed in the higher arts of religion, ruling, and warfare.

The missionaries lost no time in introducing their version of a formal education system, although it was at first restricted to the ali'i, at the latter's command. The missionaries' first task was to reduce the hither to oral Hawaiian language to written form. Within a year of their arrival, the missionaries developed the first Hawaiian alphabet. A year later, the first textbook in Hawaiian was printed--a sixteen-page primer with the alphabet and rudimentary lessons.

When the ali'i gave the missionaries permission to establish schools for commoners, the growth in numbers of both students and schools was phenomenal. By 1831, approximately two-fifths of the population was enrolled in schools. 1/ Throughout the decade of the 1820's, the majority of students were adults. Concerted efforts were begun to teach children in the 1830's, when the novelty of education had worn off for the adults.

Until 1840, education was the domain of the Protestant missionaries, with native Hawaiians as teachers. After 1840, this control diminished for two reasons. First, in 1840 a law was enacted to provide for a national system of common schools supported by the government. As a result, for the first time the people as a whole were required to send their children to school. In 1845, the legislature created a cabinet-level position of Minister of Public Instruction. The second reason for this diminished control was that religious tolerance was declared a government policy and other religious sects (primarily Catholic) began establishing schools. However, in spite of government direction, the schools maintained their sectarian character until the end of the reign of Kamehameha III in 1854.

By the middle of the nineteenth century there were two types of schools, government common free schools and select schools. The former comprised the free public school system. The language of instruction was Hawaiian, and the students were taught by native Hawaiian teachers. The select schools were the private schools set up for specific groups. Instruction was in English. The Royal School, which was established in 1839 by the Rev. Amos Starr Cooke and his wife, was the school that the children of the highest-ranking ali'i attended. 2/ In 1842, another missionary established Punahou, for missionary children.