Professor Peter C Doherty


Public Education Day

The time to change is now

Though the COVID-19 crisis and the way we have responded to it, both politically and as citizens, has shown us that Australians still buy-in to the idea of shared fates and a measure of collective responsibility, it has also highlighted many of the basic inequalities and social stress points in our society. What is clear is that our teachers and those involved generally in the sector have stepped-up to the task of developing online educational content fast, with that challenge obviously being greater for less well funded schools, most of which are in the public sector. The COVID-19 lockdown will, no doubt, also have educated parents on the stresses that many public-school teachers, in particular, face daily in their classrooms. Hopefully, that will lead to greater levels of respect from the communities they choose to serve.

The best thing that could come out of COVID-19 is that we re-evaluate, then change many of the ways we are doing things. At the forefront of that is the need to fund the public education sector properly, from schools to TAFEs to universities. We have to focus on the needs of all Australians and, indeed, on the needs of all those we accept as temporary or permanent residents. We are talking about children!

If we want to reach our potential as a nation, we must have a broadly-educated and smart work force. That means providing the best possible opportunities to all, including those with the least resources. Exemplified by videos of hand washing facilities, for example, we have all seen the appalling conditions in too many public schools. It’s time to change. I’s time for all parents and grandparents to focus on the needs of the young. It’s time to put politicians on notice, interrogate them concerning their policy positions re public education and, if they don’t give satisfactory answers, vote them out.

Peter C Doherty AC FAA FRS