I will admit it – I was wrong


Probably not the most relevant picture in the world, but it looks like it’s a school bus…. (Image by Fre Sonneveld)


I was looking through some of the old posts in here, and I came across one that surprised me. I had forgotten that, at the time of their launch here, I wrote a post about my opposition to Charter Schools. After seeing some of the results from these schools, I have to admit, I think I was wrong.

I do still have reservations about the potential for problems from charter schools (or partnership schools as they’re being called). If allowed, there are some organisations that certainly could do major damage to children by being allowed a partnership school. However, that hasn’t happened, because the Ministry of Education, through the Partnership School Kura Hourua Authorisation Board, has been reasonable in their consideration of applications. Of course, it’s possible that will change some day, but for now, we’re okay.

One excellent example of a partnership school that has done very well would be the Vanguard Military School. They have seen great success in taking students who have had behavioural issues in other schools into a new environment. Last year, their success rate in NCEA was 93% at Level One, 100% at Level Two and 93% at Level Three (source). The Education Review Office report into Vanguard has shown they are succeeding in getting positive responses out of their students, which should certainly be applauded.

As far as I’m concerned, if it’s working for some children, as it clearly is, then they’re clearly in need.

Now, this brings me to what was announced yesterday. – online partnership schools. When I wrote this post, I had no idea that this was going to be a thing. Funny, because I was at Parliament for Question Time yesterday, and I would have thought the opposition would jump at the chance to have a go about this.

They’re going to be called a “community of online learning”, presumably similar to the “communities of learning” for traditional schools the Government introduced at the beginning of the year. Now, yes, the timing of this announcement was very, very poor, given the YouTube video that came out from Last Week Tonight the day before (I’ll chuck it in at the bottom of the post), but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad idea. The reality is that some parents think their kids aren’t right for going to traditional schools, and they decide to home school instead. Maybe this would be a better option, so kids can be taught be actual teachers.

The other reason I see this being an excellent thing is that it allows kids to be taught by experts. Imagine if your kid was having a lesson about physics. Instead of a science teacher who might be more knowledgeable about chemistry teaching it, you could have someone who is an actual expert in the field. While technology would make having a class taught via Skype a potential option for schools nowadays, this makes it so much easier. There are no limitations as to where the teacher has to be. If the top scholar in a field is in another country, and the school can persuade them to teach a lesson, your kid could potentially be taught by that top expert. This means that, going back to that example of a physic lesson, if your kid is particularly good at physics, you’re not going to potentially have a situation where your kid is asking a teacher questions, and the teacher has no idea because it’s advanced stuff in a field they aren’t set up to teach.

There’s also the potential that this would make it easier to fix the problems with a lack of teachers in this country. A teacher doesn’t have to be in the same room as the people they’re teaching – they don’t even have to be in the same country. That means you could pool talent from certainly around the country, if not around the world, to give kids a real start in life. How can that be bad?

And as promised, the Last Week Tonight video. There are certainly some legitimate concerns, particularly around online charter schools, that will need to be considered. That doesn’t mean they are intrinsically bad though.


About Daniel Farrell

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Posted on August 24, 2016, in New Zealand Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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