There's very little that can't be done online these days - from banking to dating to the weekly grocery shop.

So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by new government legislation that will allow school-age students to enrol in an accredited online learning provider instead of attending school.

The move has upset many who say education is about learning to socialise with other children and that high-quality teaching is the biggest influence on children's achievement.

The change will see any registered school or tertiary provider be able to apply to be a "community of online learning" (COOL). They then decide whether students will have to physically attend for all or some of the school day.


Education Minister Hekia Parata has called it the biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years.

Of course, learning to socialise and get on with other children is an absolutely vital part of education and of growing up. Kids learn just as many valuable lessons at school in the playground as they do in the classroom.

But as advocates of home schooling and correspondence school will attest, not attending a traditional school does not mean children have to turn out socially inept or lacking.

There are many other ways for children to socialise, whether it be through sports clubs, hobbies or just getting together with other kids on a regular basis. Supporters of the new legislation say it offers another option for parents, recognising that not all children are the same, and not all children learn the same way.

No one likes the idea of a child being plonked in front of a computer and told "here you go, learn".

But Ms Parata has assured us there will be a "rigorous accreditation process" and ongoing monitoring to ensure quality education is being provided. This will be crucial to the success or otherwise of the scheme. Ultimately it will remain up to parents to decide what is best for their child.

And if technology can engage a child in learning who was failing in traditional schooling, then surely that's an option worth exploring.