Yesterday Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a major piece of education policy: closing schools and replacing them with online learning centres:
School-age students will be able to enrol in an accredited online learning provider instead of attending school, under new Government legislation.Firstly, the idea of allowing more distance education isn't necessarily bad. There may be people who might do better under such a scheme, and there might be a couple of providers who could usefully supplement Te Kura in providing it at a primary and secondary level. It could be usefully looked at. And if the idea was coming from the education sector and driven by education professionals who were interested in outcomes and the welfare of those kids, it would be worth considering. But when it comes from an education minister whose sole priority in office seems to be trying to find ways to close schools, cut costs, and funnel public money to her private donors and cronies, its hard to view it as anything other than yet another means to achieve those ends. The logic for the government is just a little too naked: "schools are expensive and troublesome, so lets close them down, sack the teachers, and replace it all with online learning we can contract out to the lowest bidder / our donors". Yeah, nah. I'd rather have schools, sorry.
The move has dismayed the primary school teachers' union who say education is about learning to work and play with other children.
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.
Hopefully this idea will be buried in a pit and the earth salted, along with every other idea Hekia Parata has ever had. If not, I pity the kids who end up as the victims of her cost-cutting exercise - and pity us when we end up paying for her mistake through the welfare, mental health and criminal justice budgets fifteen years later.