Online Learning in New Zealand

by Krista Wallace

In a major reform, new government legislation introduced by New Zealand Education Minister Hekia Parata will allow students to enrol with accredited online learning providers instead of attending school, says the New Zealand Herald.

Under new education reforms, any registered school, polytechnic or approved body will be able to apply to become a Community of Online Learning (COOL). Students of a compulsory schooling age will be able to enrol in a COOL, and the provider will determine whether the student will also need to physically attend school for either all or part of the day.

Parata states this is the biggest update to New Zealand education in 30 years, and suggests it will create many benefits for young people by providing an innovative way of delivering education. She hopes that offering a digital learning option will help engage students, grow their digital fluency, and connect them to 21st century opportunities.

Although the primary school teachers’ union has expressed doubts as to whether high quality teaching can be provided in an online environment, government ministers state this move will provide a broader access to a range of subjects regardless of the size or type of school. It will also be necessary to impose new regulations in order to determine how to properly measure attendance in an online learning environment.

Countries such as the United States have seen a steady increase in online charter schools which offer tuition in virtual classrooms. Students and teachers communicate via email or on a dedicated web platform, and more students are getting access to quality education regardless of their geographical position.

Whilst some teachers believe that education should be about learning to work and play with other children as well as realising academic achievements, it is possible that a combination of online learning and face to face schooling may offer the best education for many students. Attending a COOL could also offer children in remote areas of the country increased learning possibilities which they would otherwise not have access to. Some have referred to this update in the education system as a “social experiment”, and its success depends greatly on the ability to continue providing quality education to all schoolchildren.

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