In a move to get with the times Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced school-aged children will be able to do all their learning online.
The sweeping change will allow any school, tertiary provider or an approved industry to apply to be a “community of online learning” (COOL).
NZ First has slammed the idea saying it”s “dangerous” and the “final nail in the coffin in devaluing trained and qualified teachers”.
MP Tracey Martin says Parata has “completely missed the point” regarding what digital companies were asking for from the sector, namely, for coding and more digital technology to be taught.
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“If she thinks this is about Skyping children into teachers then she’s missed the point.”
The radical shift in the way schooling is taught is part of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament on Tuesday – the biggest update to the legislation in 27 years.
Parata said any provider who wants to apply to be a COOL “must meet a very rigorous accreditation process” and each provider would be signed off by her.
“The fact of the matter is young people now operate in a world where technology and being connected is a norm for them. We want to make sure our legislation going forward provides for those options.”
An increase in access to technology doesn’t mean children would become “stunted as a result,” she said.
“We already have kids on iPads now.”
“Because this is the 21st century we want to make sure New Zealand kids are digitally fluent and they can take advantage of technology,” she said.
Individual providers would determine how much time students would need to physically spend in a school, if at all.
Labour supports the initiative if it’s a modernisation of the already existing Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) correspondence school, which would become an accredited online provider.
“But if we’re talking about charter schools stepping into this space then the evidence of that internationally is not good,” Hipkins said.
“Schooling is also about social interaction…being at home learning off a computer isn’t necessarily going to deliver all of the educational experiences a kid should have.”
Te Kura board of trustees chair Karen Sewell welcomes the changes, which she says will bring more flexibility to the education system.
“The quality of schooling in New Zealand is very high, but some students struggle to achieve success in a traditional school setting.”
“Students could choose to learn online or face-to-face, or a mix of both, and have access to a much broader range of subjects regardless of the size and type of school they’re attending,” she said.
But the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) says the only benefit in this plan is for business.
“There are two wildly incorrect assumptions that underpin this idea,” said PPTA president Angela Roberts.
“One is that online learning can substitute for face-to-face, and the other is that a more competitive market in education is going to lead to better results. Both of these fly in the face of all the evidence,” she said.