New Zealand (NZ), now a country of 4.5 million people, has a comprehensive education system that is characterised by early childhood education for children under five-years-old and a compulsory school system from five to 16 years. Originally based on the British system of education, the NZ Education Act 1877, established education boards throughout the country and declared that NZ education would be free, secular and compulsory. In this Act of parliament, physical training became compulsory and over time this morphed into physical education (PE). Today Health and PE is one of eight essential (core curriculum) learning areas. All areas are compulsory up to 15-years-old. From the age of 15 years (year 11 at school) students begin to specialise in their chosen subjects. PE can be chosen as a specialist subject that has senior school (15–17-year-olds) qualifications. On leaving school students can opt to go to one of eight universities. Of the eight universities almost all have PE and/or sport studies-related programmes of academic studies. There are other tertiary providers in NZ, e.g. polytechnics and they too provide programmes of sport, leisure and recreation study. In most NZ schools, sport has become an important co-curricular activity along with drama and the arts.