On 13th September the government tabled the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) 2018 which seeks to repeal CoOL (Communities of Online Learning) legislation. What does this mean for the future of online learning in NZ schools?
It was not entirely unexpected that the new government would make this decision to repeal CoOLs. There were major reservations voiced by opposition and the educational sector about this legislation and we shared some of these concerns especially in respect to:
- Privatisation of education
- Quality of online education and the important role of teachers
- An open educational marketplace that has the potential to undermine public
- Full time online schools as an option for all students
- Equity and access for learners
However we supported CoOLs because:
- We have for many years been actively lobbying and making submissions for the
resourcing and support of online learning
- It would provide a much needed regulatory framework and sustainable resourcing for virtual learning that is
already taking place in New Zealand
- It would provide recognition and support for virtual learning in the ‘mainstream’
- It would provide more choice and learning opportunities for learners
- It would help build capability across networked communities of schools
- It has the potential to level the playing field especially for smaller rural schools
(See our Communities of Online Learning Submission to the Education and Science Select Committee)
So it would be fair to say that for me personally I feel disappointed that after advocating for so many years to provide a place for online learning as a legitimate part of the New Zealand education system this will now be repealed. We are still having to continue to advocate to ensure that we can provide the best online learning opportunities we can for our schools and learners. This is especially difficult at this time when our resourcing needs are so immediate. "This is a time when we should be strategically stepping up and helping lead change in this area, not struggling to keep afloat."
My main concerns are that:
- online learning doesn't get left by the wayside within the wider process of review,
- small rural schools get equitable and fair opportunities,
- the government understands there are many models of working online across schools and they all require adequate funding and support,
- the way online learning is working in primary schools is very different but as important to what is happening in secondary schools.
I have spent some time reading through MoE recommendations (worth a read). Much of these recommendations are based on stakeholder discussions and research (attached below) that we were an active part of, and that was originally set up to inform the guidelines for CoOLs. In considering this I can appreciate the opportunity that going back to the drawing board will bring in aligning online learning to the whole system review that is underway; however being redirected into the depths of #educonvo is very challenging - how can our voices be heard amongst so many, and amongst the multitude of issues being discussed?
So we wait, alongside the rest of the education sector to see what will take shape from the government's education conversations and where online learning in NZ schools may or may not sit as part of that.
If you care about our children having access and equity to education through online learning for all , have your say when this bill reaches select committee.
The VLN Primary submission to the repeal of CoOLs legislation consultation is attached below.
(A version of this article was first published March 2018)