Kids' Education Shouldn't Depend On Parents' Wealth

I chose my parents wisely. They kept me well fed. They kept me safe and healthy. They didn’t have to move very often so they gave me a stable home to grow up in. They taught me the value of hard work.

My parents had the resources to give me what I needed to get the best possible start in life. Sure, I’ve worked pretty hard for most of my 38 years to achieve my goals, but having a solid foundation made sure that effort was worthwhile.

While most of what my parents gave me was just part of the comfortable life that earning a reasonable income provided back in those days, they made one remarkable sacrifice so that I could have the very best opportunities in life: They sent me to private schools.

My parents didn’t have confidence that the education provided by state schools back then was of sufficient quality to give children all the opportunities they deserved. That’s debateable, but the point is my parents wanted the best for their kids and had good reasons to believe that the best was not available to every child in New Zealand. They needed to do something extra.

It wasn’t easy. We were a middle-income family and although private education was within our reach we had to stretch pretty far to grab it. I certainly didn’t have all the things the other kids had at school. My nickname at high-school was “Peasant” because, you know, I was the poor kid, which is ludicrous when you think just how well-off we were. It was within our reach but for most Kiwi families, it isn’t.

That’s why we need world-class state schools that make sure every Kiwi kid does get the education they need to make the most of their talents and lead a successful, fulfilling life. Here in Palmerston North we have great schools. My kids attend the schools nearest to where we live because we do have confidence in the education they provide.

But a problem is looming. Schools are being starved of government funding and rely more and more on parents to fork out “donations” and to pay for everything from stationary to sports. Increasingly, the quality of education that children can expect depends on how much money their parents can spend. That’s not right and it needs to change.

Benjamin Franklin said “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Let’s get back to investing in all of our children so that they and New Zealand can enjoy the rewards of success.