Everywhere I have lived in the world, I have observed that parents – no matter what their culture or politics – are keen to give their children the very best education they can.
Good education will lift a family out of poverty, and enable a career and fulfilment at work, give choices in life, be the means to support a family, and enable families to buy their own home.
My parents wanted good education for me; my wife Anuschka and I want the same for our children, and so it goes on.
New Zealand has always had an education system which is our pride.
That is certainly the aspiration of the Indian community.
Indian families want their children to do well at school.
So many Indian parents tell me how well their children are doing. It comes with a lot of hard work, but that is the reason why so many are in professional positions.
In the last century, Peter Fraser who was Labour Prime Minister from 1940 to 1949), gave a speech about education that has become famous, still inspiring the Party’s education policies.
He said, “The government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their level of ability, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.”
Labour Leader Andrew Little was inspired by this timeless philosophy when he made his big education announcement on January 31, 2016.
He announced Labour’s new Working Futures Plan.
The Plan will provide three years of free post-school education across a person’s life to enable Kiwis to adapt and thrive in the changing 21st century economy.
Since the National government took office in 2008, Tertiary student numbers have dropped by 20% and apprenticeship numbers have slumped by 22%.
That is a worry. It means a less educated New Zealand, not more.
It is urgent that we keep learning and adapting. The very nature of work is changing rapidly in New Zealand, and we need to seize the opportunities of the future. We need one of the best educated workforces in the world.
Labour’s Plan means that no matter what path someone chooses to take after they leave school, be it university or an apprenticeship, or other training, they will get the skills they need to succeed without being shackled with years of debt.
Importantly, the Plan will continue to be available throughout a person’s lifetime.
So, if you are made redundant, or need to retrain for a more relevant career, you will still be able to access free tertiary education.
It means our children will be able to adapt to the skills needed in our society and businesses will always be able to find the skilled workers they need to prosper.
Labour’s “Working For Futures” Plan is an education policy, but it is also a strategically clever economic move.
To get ahead, New Zealand needs an innovative and job-rich economy to support the growth, education and living standards Kiwis deserve.
We are thinking long term about a better New Zealand.
David Shearer is an elected Member of Parliament from Mt Albert in Auckland and Labour Party’s spokesman for Foreign Affairs.