The PPTA and the Green Party are united in their criticism of online schools

What a coincidence, yesterday the Green party put out a press release on Voxy about online schools and only seven minutes later the PPTA did one as well.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.40.38 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.41.02 PM

Clearly, neither the Green party nor the PPTA supports online schools. Here is a brief summary of the points each group made in their press release.

The Green Party Press release summarised:

1.The Government plans to open up the Correspondence School Te Kura to corporate entities or charter schools which could have terrible consequences for the quality of education

2. Communities of Online Learning (COOL) will threaten the existence of the Correspondence School Te Kura.

3.”Online charter schools that use public money for private profit don’t provide the education that students need,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.”Student success relies upon high quality teachers and engagement, but this Bill opens the way for an unstructured online learning that undermines this.

I must mention at this point that students who interact with the correspondence school interact in writing with high-quality teachers but there is no face-to-face engagement. There is no reason why online learning would not involve high-quality teachers or lack structure. What it could offer is a more efficient method of long distance learning where students could chat online with their teacher in real time.

If the  proposal was just to replace the correspondence school I would not have any concerns but the proposal appears to go further than that. There is a clear intention to open it up for even primary school aged children.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced school-aged children will be able to do all their learning online.


The question is whether this will be just for students who cannot access or cope with the mainstream system or whether it is going to be an option for everyone.If it is going to be an option for everyone then is the intention to replace the state school system as critics fear or to enhance it?


Online learning could mean that a high school student who wants to do a subject that their school does not offer could do it instead online at scheduled times on their school computer.It could mean that the primary school child who is behind in reading could get access to a high-quality teacher online every day to help him or her.

4.”Putting more money and resources in charter school coffers at the expense of the public education system undermines every child’s education.

If it wasn’t already clear enough to you by now, Correspondence School Te Kura  is good because it is the public education system whereas anything related to charter schools is bad according to the Greens. Note that they are anti ” private profit” despite the fact that charter schools are not-for-profit entities.

5.”Online learning shouldn’t be pushed on students just because it may be the cheapest option for a company.

The PPTA Press release summarised:

1.Communities of online learning (Cools) are nothing but blatant privatisation.

2. Opens up a market for any provider to get public funding in competition with public schools.”

3.The only benefit will be for business.”

4. Sets up the possibility of student vouchers being used to fund private online schools.

5. “There are two wildly incorrect assumptions that underpin this idea,” says 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.”

Online learning will have its place in education. It will replace correspondence school in the same way that email has replaced the hand written letter. I agree with Angela that online learning is not as good as face-to-face learning for students.  Replacing the correspondence school with online learning makes sense but if the grand plan is to phase out physical learning altogether that is unacceptable. I suspect that there is some fear mongering going on as it seems more likely that online learning will be used to enhance, not replace, face to face learning in physical schools. If Education Minister Hekia Parata’s genuine intention with this policy is to replace teacher’s with online learning then she is wrong. I hope her intentions are simply being misrepresented by her critics.I suspect that they are.


  • Seriously?

    John Oliver’s most recent segment was on Charter Schools in the US, and touched on on-line schools there as well. It is well worth a watch, so I’ve put the link below.

    His main point, which I think is entirely valid, is that the efficacy of these schemes depends greatly on the oversight given to who can set them up, and how they are run. We seem to have that in mind already, and hopefully we can emulate the good things that have been done overseas and avoid some of the pitfalls.

  • axeman

    I suspect the ideal model is somewhere in the middle. Online learning and with ultra fast broadband means real time classes are possible, so much learning is now being done by webinars. You could as an example learn online during the term and then have two week learning camps at schools while they are on school holidays which gives you that face to face contact. Just needs some imagination and resetting the online learning calendar.
    It is typical Chicken Little ” The sky is falling I must run and tell the Lion” stuff isn’t it.
    There is a huge opportunity for Qualified teachers to make a significant impact with this initiative. Instead of looking at how might I better position myself to make the most of this, the left leaning teachers PPTA is gone full retard in patch protection mode.

  • oldmanNZ

    In my younger years, well before the internet was invented. I was a d grade student up to intermediate school, i did not interact with teachers at all.
    Why.. Because i was half deaf, i could not really hear what the teacher was saying.

    It was not untill i read the encyclopedia, the whole volumes, and taught my self.

    By 4th form i was becoming a A grade student, and by 6th, got my university entrance and passed 7th.

    If online correspondence was available, it would have helped me then, face to face teaching was practically useless to me, unless they were pretty.

    It may not be for everyone, but will be useful for some.

    PPTAand the greens one model fits all is wrong… As usual.

    • spanishbride

      Your story reminds me of my husband’s story. His Mum was at a parent teacher interview about him and the teacher said sarcastically ” your son is really annoying and a know it all, does he read encyclopedias or something? Yes, his Mum replied, he does. He has been reading them since he was in his cot. It was the best way to keep him quiet and occupied.”

  • Sally

    It is all about protecting their patch.
    If schools and teachers do their job well parents are not going to withdraw their children from schools to an isolated environment and a computer. Offering subject choices online would be a bonus for the smaller schools. Imagine the excitement it would bring to a child in a small school who could spend an hour on a computer to learn a language. Can only be a positive to that child’s education.

    Next will be online testing, it is coming. Some parts of Australia are trialling it at present.

    • oldmanNZ

      The quality of the teaching is dependent on the quality of the teacher.

      Somehow, the ppta assume all teachers are good. Or good enough.

    • axeman

      The other part to this is that most NZ families require two incomes to survive or mildly get ahead so the day the youngest hit school you usually see the the parents doing back flips. One it free’s up mum or dads time and they can get back a bit oft their own life by often returning to work, interacting with adults and in some circumstances using their degree that they studied for all those years ago.

  • Taser

    If kids get to stay home to learn then who gets to feed them breakfast and lunch if they’re not there. Will they starve? Or will parents do their job of raising their kids, or will the Greenies deliver meals to the kids at home.

  • Simo

    Its a revolution to the PPTA and their fellow travelers. However, we use online learning and support remotely for all our customers with accounting software. It means: No more tarmac warrior, simply remotely connect and you under way, use SKYPE for interactive assistance, fix problems for customers after hours when they are not using the systems. Its an overwhelming win win for us and IS the way forward with selective remote education and any specialist learning requirements. Children do need to socialise though which is going to require some planning/organisation to allow this to happen.

    • Keeping Stock

      Good point Simo. Some accountants see packages like Xero as a threat; others see it as an opportunity. Our accountant is in the latter camp. As a consequence, we do most of the number-crunching at our end, and he and his staff help us with the strategic side of our business, and it works out for everyone.

      • Keyser Soze

        I’m no accountant but it is one profession I would be particularly worried about taking up today. I suspect it will not be all that long before artificially intelligent business system are giving quality strategic advice. I know of one under development and suspect there are more out there.

        • Dave

          And similar professions as well, software exists to do some engineering work, just feed the parameters in, and out comes the engineering details with plans and the calcs.

          • Keyser Soze

            Yep… Including software development itself… Introducing SkyNet your AI overlord!

  • cod

    Finally a disruptive solution to the education monopoly of the teachers unions, they are going to fight this real hard.

  • Keeping Stock

    Increasingly, it seems that teachers exist solely to benefit the political aspirations of the teacher unions.

    Isn’t that the wrong way around? Surely the primary role of a union is to represent the best interests of its members, not to promote blatant self-interest.

    • Mikex

      Fundamentally both groups, teachers and teachers’ unions believe that the education system must be managed around their needs. Student needs and requirements are merely irritating sideline issues that can be ignored.

  • George Carter

    Regardless of the topic, it is the blanket negativity and the unwillingness to discuss new or alternative ideas that proves the teachers unions are more irrelevant now than ever before.

  • Sally

    At the end of the day this is protection of the Correspondence School Te Kura. They already offer online education from early childhood to Year 13.
    The Unions, Greens and Labour are against privatisation.

  • Hakaru

    I have a cousin in New York who teaches both voice and piano to students around the world via skype. Works well and she is able to do this from anywhere as she travels a lot doing shows around the world.

    • spanishbride

      As a teacher the flexibility this offers appeals. It would have allowed me to work part-time when I was at home with my children for so many years. Teachers who otherwise are lost to the education system could work hours that suit them from home. Specialist teachers that are in great demand could be shared instead of only available to students at one particular school.

      • LovetoTeach

        In remote schools the opportunity to take online courses that there isn’t staffing for would be great.
        The Te Kura model hasn’t worked well for our kids, but the VLN classes have, so i think if this online “stuff” had skyping with a teacher/connecting like that as well it could be amazing.

  • Andinz

    Almost forgotten in the discussion above is the home-schooling option which is already up and away with on-line learning, social interaction etc. Formal schooling is not always the best for some children especially those subjected to bullying.
    Agreed that for some learning specialist equipment and special teachers are required (think science, art) but there is scope for a service that can link with home-schooling to fill that niche, I believe.
    Unless you get the wrong idea, I am still in favour of conventional schooling which can also tap into more on-line action if appropriate.

  • Pacman

    There is already a very successful Dunedin based company doing online learning.
    The irony is that it is widely used in our secondary schools already.
    This would appear to be another example of the unions objection based entirely on philosophical grounds and not any real concern for quality education.

  • Brian Dingwall

    Re-post from GD this morning……to me cloud-based on-line learning is likely to happen sooner, and more certainly, than driverless cars, as all the infrastrctre is in place, and since it will be driven by the learners not the teachers (if you doubt this, just watch kids with their devices).

    Sugata Mitra…..”all teachers that can be replaced by a computer should be”.

    It won’t be long until all teaching materials and resources are in the cloud, the learning of subject matter will all be on-line (including assessment, and maintaining standards), and schools’ roles will be limited to sport, drama, group work, socialisation etc; the unions see this coming, and will fight it to the death.

    To them this initiative is surely the thin end of the wedge, and they are right.

    Mitra’s TED talks are worth watching, he foresees a time when all schools are “in the cloud”.

  • ruawai

    It would be great if online teachers were in addition to school so kids doing homework and assignments could chat online with teachers if they have any problems witht he work.

    • peterwn

      Kids should also chat among themselves. There have been cases of kids having conference calls on old fashioned party line telephones to discuss homework.

  • ruawai

    Does anyone know much about the pros and cons of the new bulk funding idea for education? 2 of our kids schools are having union meetings to oppose it and all staff are going.

  • peterwn

    All prisoners should be able to access educational programmes either general ones or specific ones aimed at rehabilitation. There should be no more excuses at Parole Board meetings that prisoners were unable to be placed in appropriate programmes.

  • Graeme

    Surprised ? The ppta and greens are against anything that is proposed by anyone wh does not belong to the ppta or the green party

  • Superman

    If you have a policy or idea that is opposed by Labour, The Greens or the PPTA you probably are on to a good thing.

  • CB

    Very noticeable during school holidays the lessening of the traffic on the roads.

    I would have thought the greens would have been all over this to reduce the carbon foot print of “the school run” In fact their so called “policies” would be in support of this…..

    (link to NSFW material)

  • Speaking as someone who homeschooled both his children through high school, I view these mass protestations of impending doom with disbelief. The history of the homeschooling movement shows that home school children generally do better academically and do at least as well socially as schooled children.

    A properly run online school would render truancy and learning problems easily detectable and enable parents to re-engage with their children’s learning (the single greatest determinant of learning performance). If done well, kids who need it would be able to have regular face time with first-rate teachers and kids who don’t need teacher input would be able to self-direct their learning without constant interruptions from teachers and classmates. The home schooling experience is that kids at home get the equivalent of an entire day’s schooling done in 2-3 hours.

    Additional benefits include plenty of free time to socialize with others, including adults, less congestion on roads and BILLIONS of dollars worth of real estate freed up, dropping house prices (especially those in “good” school areas).

    • SlightlyStrange

      You have to have a parent who is willing and able to homeschool for that to happen though.
      I know for a fact, that even though my husband and I are considered “bright” academically, neither of us would want to even part-time homeschool our child if we could avoid it. We don’t have the patience or enthusiasm for it.

      • Sure, homeschooling is not for everyone. But we are not talking about homeschooling, per se. We are talking about a comprehensive online teaching system where the input of parents, while important, is not great.
        The biggest drawback of such a system is often cited as the idea that a parent will have to stay at home to supervise the children. This is not necessary at all. I am certain that parents will swiftly sort out small groups of families where parents either take turns to supervise or a parent who is not working stays with the kids. You could even work out some sort of payment system for the stay at home parent, if necessary. Possibly, even the government (i.e. the taxpayer) could contribute for poorer families. After all, the system will be way cheaper to run than the current education system.

  • Whitey

    I don’t believe the minister has any intention to replace the school system with online learning. As with charter schools, it will just be a matter of introducing a new option that will be good for some students, in some situations.

    There’s a great opportunity here for parents to give their kids a combination of both public and private education. For example if parents are mostly happy with their local school but not satisfied with the maths teacher, they can keep Junior enrolled in the local school, but also enroll him in an online maths class. Or if Junior’s school is small and doesn’t offer the subject he wants to take, he can do it online. Kids already take classes through the Correspondence School if their school doesn’t offer the subject they want.

  • Keyser Soze

    Checkout the future – it’s here now!
    Backed by Google and is growing exponentially. An amazing story and an amazing site.

  • LovetoTeach

    I think anything that offers genuine choice for students is worth a turn. If some of our parents did that we wouldn’t have to keep fighting the MOE for more buildings!

    And….(I am so going to flamed for this but think it’s worth it!) it will be nice to be able to say parents who think teaching is easy/we can’t do anything right – here’s another option for you….fill ya boots

    • spanishbride

      I am all for choice. State education worked for me but not my children. Online learning would have been perfect for their needs.

  • Golden Teapot

    Both of my children attend high quality state schools; schools where most parents actively support their children achieving high quality educational outcomes and where there’s enough financial support for the schools to not need to want for more. High quality engaged teachers are attracted and the educational outcomes achieved are very good.

    Despite this particularly good educational environment my children have special needs that are not well supported by their schools and we have chosen to provide the extra support they need via an online programme sourced from the USA.

    Some discussion has started on the negative outcomes that may arise if there is a shift to online delivery of some elements of tuition. I want to provide an alternative firsthand perspective of exceptional outcomes being achieved through online learning.

    The special needs that both of my children have is that they are academically talented. Both are now following an online programme delivered by the Center for Talented Youth at John Hopkins University. This is a programme for academically talented children where the philosophy is to support children learning at the level at which they are capable irrespective of their age and at the pace the children want to learn at.

    My children started this programme in primary school. My eldest in her final year of primary school had mastered relatively advanced algebra including understanding complex numbers and she was working through a course on axiomatic geometry.

    My youngest is in a similar position. During the most recent parent teacher interviews her extremely rapid progress was attributed to the modern learning environment recently introduced. I did not have the heart to say something else might be happening.

    The tuition material delivered online is of an exceptional quality. For me it fulfills my expectation of what world-class should mean. The format is a mixture of videos, bookwork, and well thought out and challenging assessments.

    In the background there is a real-world teacher to help if needed. Each teacher has a relatively small number of students to manage. In terms of enthusiasm and capability these teachers are like none others I have come across. These teachers are performance graded too. At the end of each course both the children and the parents are surveyed on how well the teacher acted across a good range of criteria. We’ve yet to experience a teacher her who is less than a perfect 10/10. I do wonder whether the performance grading they are receiving is helping here.

    In one course the format included sending weekly essays to the teacher for review and in response a few days later extensive feedback was received. This was not copy-paste style feedback – this was very detailed feedback bespoke to the essay that had been sent.

    Here I think I am seeing the future of teaching. Educators that nobody would reasonably fault have prepared superb online content. An engaged and highly capable teacher is in the background if you need them. There’s an extensive range of material from years 3 to 13 and into the first couple of years of university. As a child who wants to learn everything is here.

    On the negative side supporting my children in learning in this way does have a cost. At the point my eldest daughter had mastered quite advanced algebra and was delving into some topics from year 13 her primary school was setting her homework to add fractions; the positive spin I could think of here was to observe that at least the homework wasn’t going to take her very long.

    The Center for Talented Youth is not-for-profit but there are fees. It’s around $1,200 NZ per three months; three months is about the time our children take to complete a course equivalent to a year at school and this is not an atypical rate at which to complete courses. In a sense this is a bargain but at the same time it’s not an accessible option for lots of people. Within the US parents who can’t pay receive fee relief. As an international student parents have to pay.

    Our experience of online learning could not be more positive. I can see though that this might be an extremely scary proposition for some schools and some teachers – parents will have the option of not settling for second best.

    My only wish is that as NZ delves into online learning that it lifts the best of what is already working overseas rather than trying to invent from scratch.

  • Blockhead

    When I listened to discussion about this on the radio this morning a couple of things crossed my mind:
    This was the same sort of reaction to charter schools
    I wondered if teachers would stop using online banking and insist on doing their transactions face to face at a physical branch – they are selective about where new technologies should be use
    Already the style of teaching/learning has changed, such that teachers are now “facilitators”, rather than standing in front of 30 kids trying to get them all interested in the same thing, at the same time, and learning at the same pace. I see little difference in having the facilitator available to a student needing some help/direction, when that facilitor is working the classroom, or on a Skype call.
    There is already so much teaching/learing going on online, this is just the Govt trying to catch up.
    This would give choice – school zones would become irrelevant. The protection zoning gives to the mediocre and incompetent would be gone.

  • SlightlyStrange

    Discussing this with a workmate who also has young kids today, we both believe it will end up being more a case of offering classes digitally that schools cant offer in person. I wish such an option had been around for doing languages when I was in high school – we only had French and Japanese available, would have loved options like German, Mandarin etc.
    Because most parents wont want to send their kids to a school that only offers classes for 2 hours a day – how do you hold down a job? Or do you have to pay for HEAPS of “after” school care and hope they help with the classwork? And if you don’t already want to homeschool, why would you enrol your child in a school that is 100% online curriculum?
    I’m all for technology increasing options, but I don’t see it completely replacing schools any time in the near future.

    • Perhaps not in the immediate future, but the benefits of moving to an entirely online form of learning is huge, not only in cost saving for the taxpayer, but in the availability of diverse subjects and the immediate access to face to face teachers of excellence.

  • Dave

    Does anyone remember the School of the Air or correspondence school, the system is the same, remote learning, just the method is different. A old friends iwfe was a correspondence teacher, she loved it, setting tasks for her children, and following up later, it can work. Then……

    Look at this,m”The school of the Air” in Alice springs, providing education via the airwaves and Internet to over 3 million square kilometres, overlapping the borders of Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia

    The new proposal is not much different from either of these two, so why the outburst now, why not years ago.

  • Jon Low

    PPTA are deeply ideological in their dog-in-the-manger opposition to any vestige of private schooling. Yet not a single candidate for PPTA office has ever published in their election manifesto an insistence that every private, chartered or integrated school be summarily nationalised and drawn fully into the state school system. They issue meek, bland little documents that will lull PPTA members into voting for them. But, after election, they will aggressively claim a mandate for a position they never revealed prior to being elected. Trojan Horse politicking at its most cynical and dishonest.