Online teaching

The Herald reports:

School-age students will be able to enrol in an accredited online learning provider instead of attending school, under new Government legislation.

The move has dismayed the primary school teachers’ union who say is about learning to work and play with other children.

Have they not heard of the Correspondence School? Home-schooling?

The radical change will see any registered school, tertiary provider such as a polytechnic or an approved body corporate be able to apply to be a “community of online learning” (COOL).

Any student of compulsory schooling age will be able to enrol in a COOL – and that provider will determine whether students will need to physically attend for all or some of the school day.

The Ministry of Education says this requirement may depend on the type of COOL.

Regulations will set out the way in which attendance in an online learning environment will be measured.

The change is part of legislation that has been introduced by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

She said it was the biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years.

“COOLs will be open to as wide a range of potential providers as possible to gain the greatest benefits for young people,” Parata said.

So basically it is about allowing flexibility.

Te Kura is currently the only correspondence school. The change would open it up to competition.

Act leader David Seymour, who is Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said the changes announced today were not about clearing the way for online charter schools.

That was because there was nothing in the current law that would stop a partnership school allowing students to learn online from home.

An application to establish an online partnership school was rejected by the Government-appointed authorisation board in 2013.

“In principle, partnership schools have offered this opportunity for a long time…who knows what future applications will come forward,” Seymour said.

“I think the jury is still out about whether learning content online is a substitute for the social aspects of actually being part of a school community. But, look, it’s quite possible for some kids that’s exactly what they need.”

Dame Karen Sewell, chair of the correspondence school’s board of trustees, welcomed the changes.

“They will give young people and their whanau the right to choose the education that best suits their needs. 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 are attending.

“Many of these young people are referred to Te Kura after long periods of disengagement from education and when all other options have been exhausted,” said Dame Karen.

“Under the proposed changes students, with the support of their whanau or school, could choose to come to Te Kura – or to another COOL – and continue with their learning programme in an environment which may be better suited to them.”

Currently about 23,000 students use the correspondence school each year. About half of those students use Te Kura for subjects or curriculum adaptation which their own school does not provide.

The idea of more than one correspondence school is a good one, with the potential for specialist schools.

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