Education Is More Important Than Inflation, Housing or Crime; Here’s Why.

By Tim Wilson May 02, 2023

Our regular school attendance rates have been dropping since 2015, long before COVID-19.

The news that only about half of our students regularly attended school in the final term of 2022 produced predictable—and reasonable—concern. After all, that number was worse than the 65% who had attended during the previous year.

Others took heart. This statistic was an improvement on the previous two terms when 40% and 46% had regularly come to school.

COVID got blamed (again); a corner had been turned, hopefully. Everyone moved on.

We shouldn’t have. Our regular school attendance rates have been dropping since 2015, long before COVID-19. Compared to places like Canada, they’re a scandal.

But of course, as a nation, with an election coming in a matter of months, we’re more concerned about inflation, housing or crime.

Education? That struggles to get on the radar of things that Kiwis worry about.


You could reasonably argue the other concerns are more urgent. Latest figures show that food prices recently made the largest jump in 33 years. Fruit and veggies were the second largest increases, with the cost of a tomato rising by a staggering 117%.

Housing is a national preoccupation. Crime seems to be spiralling out of control.

Education deeply affects all the “urgent” issues, creating and exacerbating them.

Translation? “I need to get the supermarket shopping done today without taking out a second mortgage and not get robbed; we’ll find a way to deal with the kids who are dropping out of school tomorrow.”

Yet on reflection, education deeply affects all the “urgent” issues, creating and exacerbating them.

If kids aren’t properly educated (and regularly making it to school would be a start), they’re more likely to end up in low-wage jobs that bear the brunt of economic turmoil such as inflation. Indeed, they’re also more likely to not end up in jobs at all.

With less income, they’re far less likely to own a house. And they’re more likely to turn to crime.

Trends in education are a crystal ball into the headlines of the future.

So let’s talk about the future; it’s not looking bright.

Multivalent, thorny problems will confront us in this century, from the workplace and sociological nuclear explosion that is AI to the predicted demographic winter of discontent. These will require incredible leaders to solve them. Where are these creatures made?

At school. Now…Only half of them aren’t showing up at present.

Every level of society will also need to demonstrate leadership. Elites—according to some—don’t self-sustain. So we should ensure that all socio-economic groups get the same education access to create new elites. That’s not happening now.

This means the next time you’re in the supermarket wondering how you’ll make ends meet; or watching the police whizz by, sirens flashing… think about your local school.

Yes, inflation is important, ditto crime and housing, but the answer to—or worsening of—these problems is already happening there.

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