New Zealand First slams Govt’s online learning plans

Slams education minister

New Zealand First has slammed education minister Hekia Parata’s, plan to set up Communities of Online Learning (COOL) for schools, saying those schools that have already initiated online learning programs should have been consulted.

The plan was set out in the Education (Update) Amendment Bill released last week “designed to recognise the impact that technology is having on education by introducing online learning.”

The Bill proposes to enable new partnerships between schools and online learning providers so children can gain education through online delivery. It proposes that organisations in the schooling, tertiary education and private sectors will be able to seek accreditation as Community of Online Learning (COOL).

Every COOL will have to meet criteria relating to their capability and capacity to deliver education to students in an online environment. Some COOLs will be subject to additional terms and conditions, including restriction on which students they can enrol. “All COOLs will be subject to a robust quality assurance regime, including requirements to meet specified student outcomes,” the bill says.

New Zealand First education spokesperson Tracey Martin, expressed disbelief that the minister and her ministry had not talked to schools that already share online learning with other schools so as to make maximum use of resources.

“Schools that have set up virtual learning networks (VLNs) have opened up the curriculum choices for students. Through online learning, one school can provide resources that another may lack and vice versa,” she said.

“It’s about sharing and works well. It is a collaborative approach started by schools and communities. Blending education through using technology and teacher-to-student learning is already happening in schools and between schools.”

She added: “The networks, as they stand, incur no costs for schools and their students. They’re based on a reciprocal arrangement where schools and teachers share their expertise for the benefit of students. Changes as proposed by Minister Parata will more than likely mean that there will be charges for any future delivery.”

Online learning déjà vu

The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (NZCGE) said the minister had revived a decade old initiative with COOL. “In 2003 the Ministry of Education and the George Parkyn Centre (now merged into NZCGE) entered into a contract under a Talent Development Initiative to deliver online learning opportunities to gifted children across New Zealand,” NZCGE said.

“The initial COOL programme ran for three years and fostered a sense of community for isolated gifted learners predominantly in rural, remote areas or in urban areas where they did not have access to other specialist opportunities.”

Funding was discontinued when the Talent Development Initiatives ended.

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