Some of us are fortunate enough to ask this question. For the vast majority of the world’s population, education is neither a question of investment or cost. It is simply an unattainable luxury.
During a recent throw out I came upon the crumpled front page of the Sydney Morning Herald from 2004. There was a picture and story of young graduate doctors heading off for placements in rural NSW. Of the group pictured, most seemed to be from non-English speaking backgrounds and the article mused on this fact at length.
Of those pictured, the scant facts of a young man of Vietnamese background caught my attention. Along with his family, he had fled Vietnam by boat on a journey that many before and after him had not survived. He landed in this country not speaking English. A refugee. Within 12 years he was heading off to a Rural Hospital for the final part of his medical training. As the article pointed out, he would soon be a valuable resource to rural Australia.
Two things strike me as interesting here. The first is the obvious fact that this country has been built on migration, forced and un-forced. The second is that our investment in those so landed and in education generally, pays dividends. We are richer culturally and economically as a result. Migrants especially see education as the key to generational change.
The story of the young Vietnamese man is not unusual. I have over the years been privleged to present awards, certificates and other prizes. I have also met first and second-generation refugees who through outstanding commitment, have invested heavily in their own education. Their stories vary but are similar and usually feature a background of oppression, violence, hardship and escape. For them, the once unattainable luxury of education became a realisable goal in Australia.
In this country, education has never been viewed as a luxurious addition. It is a Public Good. The strength of our education system will inevitably determine the future of our society.
Garry John Traynor
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author