We need to invest more in our education system in rural and regional areas, writes former country kid and now Monash Uni student Josh Brittain, 19.
My whole life I’ve benefited from Australia’s education system. It’s where I made most of my friends, where I matured and developed, where I learned most of the skills I use today. Sure, it’s had its ups and downs, but overall, I have absolutely loved my education journey.
But I’ve been incredibly lucky.
My sister is one such example. She was let down by the education system, dropping out without support when she was young. This led to a sharp decline in both her mental and her physical health.
I applied to become a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador because I wanted to do something about this issue. I was lucky, again, and I got the position.
In this role with UNICEF I am uniquely placed to get a broad perspective on education in Australia. For the past few months I’ve been going around to schools and running consultations with kids, listening to them about how they feel about some of the big issues that affect them, one of which is education.
Unfortunately, a lot of what I’ve heard has been negative.
The consultations I’ve been running have been in my home state of Victoria. If you visit Victoria, you might notice something funny about the number plates. ‘VICTORIA – THE EDUCATION STATE’.
What makes this painfully ironic is that when I talk to actual Victorians I hear again and again that kids don’t feel like they’re prepared at all for life after school. I hear from so many kids that their concerns and individual problems are overlooked by teachers. I hear so many kids telling me that their educational journey has been marred by bullying.
Don’t get me wrong, Australia is a great place to live and most of our young people get a decent education.
Forgive me for being idealistic, but I don’t want most of our young people to have a decent education.
Whether it’s in the most remote community or the most affluent suburb of Melbourne, every child deserves the best education we can give them, and our country needs the most competent and well-educated populace it can get.
For now, we’re falling short.
Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic minorities or rural areas are significantly less likely to make the transition from primary school to secondary school, and are more likely to be delayed in moving up a year level.
- In very remote areas only 65 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are in school.
- The retention rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in years 10-12 in government schools is under 60 per cent.
- In major cities, 78 per cent of students complete year 12 or equivalent, compared to only 43 per cent of students in very remote areas.
There’s no reason for these issues to be permanent. Australia is a wealthy country. We have the money to build more schools in these rural areas, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, in lower socioeconomic communities.
We have world class universities in which to train teachers. We have the ability to change things. To be proud of our education system and know that it works for all kids.
All we’re lacking is the political will.
Make education a priority. It’s where our children and young people learn to socialise, read and write. School provides people with the opportunity to safely grow, develop and become productive members of society.
Whether you are a parent looking after a single child or a minister looking after a nation, put the education of our young people first.
Josh Brittain, 19, is a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador. He grew up in Timboon, Victoria, and is currently studying international relations at Monash University.
Stay up-to-date on UNICEF's work in Australia and around the world
20 Sept 2022
Leading the way in Tennant Creek
These Aboriginal educators are inspiring the next generation of First Nations children
7 Sept 2022
Arlo Parks, a voice for the next generation
The award-winning UK musician met UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors for a chat about mental health and making an impact.
18 Aug 2022
We won’t forget them. One year since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.
On 15 August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and UNICEF pledged to stay and deliver. After decades of unrest and natural disaster, the country remains in crisis, and it’s a child rights crisis.
14 Aug 2022
Empowering young people in remote Australia
Dakota has already gained an impressive list of achievements, thanks to a new initiative by the Community Spirit Foundation supported by UNICEF Australia.
21 July 2022
Hygiene and health go hand in hand
Ms. Nang, 25, is a teacher at a primary school in the Savannakhet province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Every morning, the rhythmic beat of a drum is the first sound that greets you in her classroom as she performs a roll call of her students using the class’s miniature-sized drum.
18 July 2022
Five myths about UNICEF
Although we are a United Nations agency, we receive no funding from them. We rely entirely on voluntary contributions from national governments and private donors like you.
15 July 2022
Rethinking screen-time for children in the time of COVID-19
How can children and families make the most of the increased reliance on screens, especially during lockdown?
15 July 2022
Powerful photos reveal Ethiopia's worst drought in decades
After three failed consecutive rainy seasons, four countries across the Horn of Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades. Overall, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, 10 million children need urgent life-saving support, with 1.7 million children severely malnourished across the subregion.
24 May 2022
Olena is learning in an unlikely place: underground
Seven-year-old Olena lives in Ukraine, which has been under constant attack since the beginning of the war in February 2022.
16 May 2022
Headlines we can't forget about
News stories come and go quickly. Every so often a story will gather attention, only to fizzle out with the onslaught of another headline.
5 Apr 2022
More than just a month of fasting
As UNICEF Young Ambassadors past and present, these incredible young people have come together this Ramadan for a bigger purpose. Find out why this holy month of Ramadan is such an important time to give, reflect and to come together as a community, no matter who you are or what your beliefs.