Aim for the Highest

Aim for the highest! That was our motto at the high decile girls school I attended from age ten to seventeen. We were encouraged to do our very best in all our subjects - especially the academic ones.

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Of course, aiming for the highest really depends what you put at the top. Sometimes I got the feeling it was money.

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But our school had strong Christian values of hard work and service too. Somewhere, lingering in our collective subconscious, there was a pyramid of success to help us choose a direction in life. The really bright girls were encouraged to study law or medicine.

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My year group was clearly a bright bunch. At our final prize-giving the headmistress read out the names of each 7th former along with the career path we'd decided to pursue… "Law, Law, Law, Medicine, Law, Law…"

Out of sixty or so girls there were only a couple doing science or engineering.
I've only recently thought about the significance of this - what it means for our country. Lawyers and doctors are undoubtedly useful but they won't create a new economy or make NZ "The Place Talent Wants to Live" as NZr of the year Paul Callaghan has envisioned. They could be considered ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. In fact young lawyers and doctors can do better overseas in the UK, US or Oz where the salaries and opportunities are higher. As Paul Callaghan has urged we need more people following their creative passion - developing niche enterprises in the high-tech and creative industries.

So…What would the country look like if we updated the success pyramid?

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Wouldn't it be exciting if young Kiwis were encouraged to become innovators, creative entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists? That's a worthy challenge for the brightest young minds! To me, this is an inspiring thought. When I was at school I had so much passion, enthusiasm and idealism. I would have lapped up the opportunity to serve my country in a way that allowed my creativity to flourish.

I've always wanted to return to my school and give a speech on "Aiming for the Highest". This would be my new interpretation!
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