Should schools of the future move online? This is the question which the New Zealand education sector is currently grappling with. While online-only education is being trialed overseas, the model which swaps the classroom for online teaching at home, is a divisive issue.
For those in New Zealand government policy circles who recommend it, it represents a potential solution to engaging with students who may not be fitting in with the existing school system. With the internet changing just about every other aspect of the way we live our lives, the argument is that online-only teaching is a progressive and innovative step towards revolutionising traditional education.
However teachers and many others in the field, believe that you can’t replace the face-to-face learning that goes on in a classroom. Teachers in New Zealand are also concerned that their already undervalued role in the education of the country’s greatest assets, its children, would be further eroded. While the socials skills which students learn in a traditional school and classroom setting would also be lost if online-only education became the norm.
Another issue is that the change to online education may lead to more privatisation and foreign-based providers entering the school system for profit, while bricks and mortar state schools will receive less support, investment and resources.
While some have dismissed online-only education as a social experiment which is guaranteed to fail and do irreparable damage, others declare that it is the way of the future. However most in the education sector do agree that online learning can be wisely used to modernise New Zealand’s current correspondence and distant education school setup.
It’s still too early to know the results from countries where online-only education is being trialed and many argue that it will be hard to assess the overall impact it could have on local communities.
The submission is still before a select government committee in New Zealand.