Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Totally way too COOL for School

Eduaction Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Eduaction Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

You just have to look at the try-hard sexy acronym to know something's up.

"Psst, kid - do you want to go to school? Or would you rather go to COOL?"

Minister of Education Hekia Parata must have finally got those drinks happening in the brewery, because she was allowed out again this week to shill for yet another revolution we didn't know we needed to have.

In this case to allow children to do all their learning online rather than via more traditional means.

Cool, or Communities of Online Learning, would more appropriately be labelled Ostensibly Helpful Communities Offering Mediocre Education Online Now.

How do we know whether to be worried about this? There's a simple test. Does the speaker refer to the status quo as something that will be allowed to hang around?

"They will not replace schools," said Parata. "They will supplement and complement them."

There's the phrase that tells you the fix is in.

It belongs up there with "there will always be a social welfare safety net for the less fortunate" and "the new labour laws will allow for more flexibility for workers".

Anyone wanting to set up a school will, of course, have to go through "a rigorous accreditation process".

How rigorous? It's not clear, but probably as rigorous as the one Serco went through before it was allowed to take over our prisons.

Any attempt to promote this as a way to produce smarter kids is delusional. No learning is improved by isolation. Education has been a conversation since Socrates. And no parent would willingly choose to have their child isolated from their peers and sacrifice all the advantages that come from mixing with other children.

There is no more effective way to learn the under-the-surface skills we need to get through life - such as how to deal with conflict, meet people, make friends, co-operate, avoid people we dislike, survive peer pressure and get out of phys ed.

One effect of Cool would be to confirm the worst fears of doomsayers that devotion to their devices is killing interaction between people, particularly young people. But after all, "We already have kids on iPads now," noted Parata, temporarily forgetting to say "kids who can afford them are on iPads now".

Act's David Seymour said he was not opposed to children learning online from overseas companies. And he said that as if it was a good thing, ignoring that it would allow for teaching that had no relevance to or even knowledge of our traditions, culture and present-day conditions.

New Zealand First's Tracey Martin made a good point when she said attending school taught "a work ethic. So you get up in the morning, you go to school at a certain time ... you do a job and you work in a team."

A good point for the 1970s, that is, when you left school and got one of the many 9-5 jobs that were the norm. That sort of work is becoming increasingly rare.

However, there is a case to be made for more online individual learning, although it's not one Parata took the opportunity to expound.

With increased population density imminent in Auckland and elsewhere, existing schools won't be able to cope with the inevitable increase in student numbers.

In that respect, iPad learning would seem the way to go.

Unfortunately, not many children, especially those living in Auckland, will have a parent at home during the day. But that needn't be a problem. Groups of neighbourhood children and their iPads could be brought together during the day in communal spaces.

I know what you're going to say: large numbers of children together? Surely the perfect conditions for mischief and mayhem.

Again - the solution is simple. Employ an adult to supervise them and make sure they are focused on their learning. Perhaps the adult could even offer help with schoolwork from time to time.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 06 Dec 2016 01:55:07 Processing Time: 559ms