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Jamila Rizvi: "I want better than this for my son's education."

My friends and I have started breeding. Breeding, in earnest.

My husband and I recently hosted a BBQ at our place and for the first time the little people in attendance didn’t come with a novelty factor. While our mates’ kids are obviously wonderful (every child is special and all that), having a pram or a toddler in tow is the new norm for our circle of friends. The human babies outnumber the fur babies, so it’s officially official. As one of my girlfriends remarked the next morning, “there’s no pretending anymore – we’re grown-ups”.

In fact, we’re more than grown-ups, we’re parents. 

JamJezFeatureFB via Jam Insta
We’re more than grown-ups, we’re parents. (Image: Instagram/jamilarizvi)

Responsibility is no longer something that is merely expected of us, it’s required. And importantly, it’s not a responsibility that any of us resent (except when we’re nursing a particularly bruising hangover). It’s a responsibility we relish. There is so much hope and love and anxiety and expectation wrapped up in these tiny people who we’ve brought into the world. We want them to feel safe and secure. We want them to be happy and healthy. We want them to be challenged and cherished.

Like all parents, we want them to live as well, if not better, than we did.

And it’s that desire – to ensure my little boy enjoys the same advantages that I did – which made me sit up and take notice of the TV news last night. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was speaking at a press conference about Labor’s education plan and he committed to return Australia to its previous position as a top 5 country in reading, maths and science.

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Note his use of language here: return.

Now I won’t pretend I knew what ranking Australia’s education system is in each of those categories, much less what it used to be. My baby is eight-months-old and we’re still working on the whole ‘eating food without blowing raspberries and spitting it all over mummy’s pretty top from Gorman’ thing. Global educational rankings aren’t exactly top of mind, right about now.

Done like a dinner.

A photo posted by Jamila Rizvi (@jamilarizvi) on Jan 12, 2016 at 12:33am PST

But I was surprised to hear that Australia had gone backwards. Because if the Labor Party is promising to return Australia to the top five in the world then that means we used to be there. It means we used to be there and we’re not anymore.

So I got a-googling and this is what I found out (courtesy of the OECD):

In the year 2000  – when I was in year nine at high school – Australia’s education system was ranked number two in the world for reading and maths. We were ranked number three for science (I suspect the slightly lower ranking for science was partly attributable to my presence in our nation’s schools at the time. Science and I do not agree with one another).

Today, we’re number eight for science, number ten for reading and number seventeen for maths.

That’s some serious slippage.

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Well, this is a ranking and not a measure of excellence, some might argue. Perhaps our educational standard has remained exactly the same but other countries improved. Perhaps our educational standards have actually improved but other countries have also improved by even more. 

That may well be true but for me it’s also not good enough.

The children of my friends and I will ultimately know more about the world than we do, thanks to advances in technology. They will learn things that we never will, simply because the limits of human knowledge will continue to expand. But these are inevitabilities and I want more for my son and his playmates than that.

Jamila on returning to work after the birth of her son (post continues after video):

I want them to have the best education the world has to offer. I want them to have their values challenged, their minds stretched and their understanding expanded. I want them to be taught by passionate, creative and well-supported teachers and to develop a lifelong thirst for knowledge. I want them to be equipped for success in a truly globalised world. I want them to be able to compete for the highest paid, most rewarding jobs in the world and I want them to win.

Ask any parent and they will tell you they want the same thing: I want my children to live as well, if not better, than I have.

Right now, that’s not the case in Australia. And it’s high time we did something about it.

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