The prestigious grounds of Harvard University are a long way from the childhood stomping ground of Glebe’s housing commission, but it is a journey Murat Dizdar is about to take.
Mr Dizdar received the Teachers Mutual Bank Executive Leadership Scholarship at the Proudly Public! Celebrating Excellence in Public Schools awards at Sydney Town Hall this week.
The scholarship allows senior education executives to complete a short professional leadership program at the Harvard Kennedy School, in Massachusetts in the United States.
Mr Dizdar, the Deputy Secretary School Operations and Performance at the Department of Education, said he was honoured to receive the award.
"The positive impact outstanding teachers and leaders can have on young people – especially those who do not come from strong, healthy functioning families – is immeasurable," he said.
"My own decision to transfer from a law degree to education was in the hope I could emulate the role my own teachers played in challenging and extending me to think beyond my textbooks. I owe a lot to the outstanding teachers I had in public education."
Mr Dizdar has spent his life in public education – as a student at Summer Hill Public and Fort Street High School – and after a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a lawyer – as a teacher, including as Principal of Punchbowl High School, before moving into a leadership role in the department.
He will use the scholarship to examine how to drive enhanced leadership capability at all levels of public service and to develop and maintain a culture of high performance with a focus on what matters most – the students the department serves in public schools.
More than 280 scholarships were awarded to public school students and educators by the Public Education Foundation.
Bass Hill Public School Principal Melissa Proctor is also on her way to Harvard as recipient of The Teachers Mutual Bank Education Scholarship, which allows principals to undertake a short professional education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The Secretary of the Department of Education, Mark Scott, said the Public Education Foundation awards helped students and educators reach their potential by boosting their learning and professional pathways.
"What's particularly notable is how the individual efforts of these exceptional students and educators combine to create the extraordinary outcomes that our public education system delivers year in, year out," Mr Scott said.
"The annual awards of the Foundation are a timely reminder of the important role philanthropy plays in Australian society and the life-changing contribution it can make through education."
The Public Education Foundation, through its scholarship program, aims to remove those barriers to achievement created by social and economic disadvantage.
It also recognises and rewards student excellence to encourage high-achieving students to continue to maximise their potential.
This year's awards included a range of new scholarships rewarding primary school and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
The public school scholarships aim to provide support and encouragement to students from Year 2, through an annual bursary throughout their time at primary school.
Three new scholarships are now available to students from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, with one providing support to help a student through their primary years and two scholarships to help older students complete high school and make the transition to tertiary studies.