The importance of all parents having an informed choice in determining their children's educatio
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am delighted that Ms Lee has brought this matter of public importance before the Assembly today.
I speak from the perspective of a mother of five children, all five of whom are currently enrolled in three of Canberra’s public schools, including a primary school, a high school, and a college. As you can guess, the idea that all parents should have an informed choice in determining their children’s education is important to my husband and me. The whole concept of education is deeply important to our entire family.
From the time our eldest was born, we have sought to do everything we could to provide the very best educational opportunities for our kids. For example, we filled our basic rental accommodation with books and made sure that we regularly read to our children. As they have grown and entered the formal educational system, we have continued to care deeply about their learning and making sure that they are enrolled in schools that are a good fit for their needs and for the needs of our family unit.
It may seem obvious to point out, but no one on this planet knows more about individual children than their parents. This is one of the central reasons why all parents must have the right to make informed choices regarding their children’s education. This right is so important, in fact, that it was enshrined in Article 26 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I quote: ‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children’.
This guarantee could not be any clearer. Before all else, it is up to parents to choose the kind of education that their children participate in. Any other policy, procedure or approach encroaches on and violates a fundamental human right. This prerogative of parents must be always be honoured and protected in the ACT.
Of course, choosing the kind of education entails a great number of other choices as well, including where children might engage in formal learning. For our family, the correct choice has always been to enrol our kids in public schools. And I appreciate the fact that here in the ACT, we have a number of schools that we could choose from. Our eldest picked the college that he is currently studying at because its programs met his very specific interests.
At the same time, it is easy for me to acknowledge that the correct choice for other families may look different to the choices that my husband and I have made for our children – and that they have made for themselves as they have grown older. This is part of supporting the individual freedom and equality of opportunity that we as Canberra Liberals proudly endorse. One-size-fits-all can seem like an easy shortcut to equality, but it never is because we are not dealing with uniform products. We are, rather, dealing with wonderfully complex individuals.